By Yu Fei and Bai Ruixue
China unveiled its fastest supercomputer yesterday, which at its peak speed can do more than one quadrillion calculations per second, known as a petaflop.
The birth of the supercomputer, named "Tianhe", which means "Milky Way", makes China the second country, after the United States, to build a petaflop computer. This gigantic device can do as many calculations in one day as those done by an ordinary dual-core personal computer in 160 years, said Li Nan, director of the Tianhe Project Office under the National University of Defense Technology, developer of the supercomputer.
Tianhe, at a cost of 600 million yuan (S$123 million), ranks first on China's Top 100 supercomputer list released in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, with a theoretical peak performance of 1.206 petaflops and a Linpack performance of 560 teraflops.
The Linpack benchmark is used to measure the supercomputer's real performance in practical use.
The data has been submitted to the world Top 500 organization, which will release the new ranking list in November. According to the Top 500 list in June, Tianhe can be ranked the fourth most powerful supercomputer in the world.
Supported by the national high-tech research and development program, also known as the 863 program, development of Tianhe has involved more than 200 computer experts who spent about two years in designing and producing the petaflop supercomputer, said Zhang Yulin, president of the defense university.
The supercomputer has many practical applications, and will be used in seismic data processing for oil exploration, bio-medical research, development of aerospace vehicles, long-term weather and climate forecasting, financial data analysis and pollution control in the Bohai Sea area, according to Li.
Tianhe, made up of 103 refrigerator-sized silver gray cabinets, occupies an area of nearly 1,000 sq m and weighs 155 tons, containing 6,144 Intel CPUs and 5,120 AMD GPUs, with a storage capacity of 1 PB.
"Tianhe can store four times of all the books housed in the National Library of China. If every one of China's 1.3 billion people takes a high-resolution digital photo, Tianhe can record all the photos," said Li Nan.
The giant machine, now housed in Changsha, will be installed in the National Supercomputing Center in north China's port city Tianjin at the end of this year. It will be made available for domestic and overseas users in 2010.