10 million-core supercomputer hits 93 petaflop/s, tripling speed record

Chinese flagA Chinese supercomputer called Sunway TaihuLight now ranks as the world's fastest, nearly tripling the previous supercomputer speed record with a rating of 93 petaflops per second. That's 93 quadrillion floating point operations per second (or 93 million billion).

Sunway TaihuLight surpassed another Chinese supercomputer, Tianhe-2, which had been the world's fastest for three consecutive years with speeds of 33.9 petaflop/s, according to the latest Top500.org ranking released today. Top500 rankings are based on the Linpack benchmark, which requires each cluster "to solve a dense system of linear equations."

"Sunway TaihuLight, with 10,649,600 computing cores comprising 40,960 nodes, is twice as fast and three times as efficient as Tianhe-2," the Top500 announcement said. Sunway TaihuLight is one of the world's most efficient systems, with "peak power consumption under load (running the HPL benchmark)... at 15.37MW, or 6 Gflops/Watt."

The system has memory of 1.3PB, or 32GB for each node. This is actually not much memory considering how many cores the system has; if it used "a more reasonable amount of memory for its size," Sunway TaihuLight would be a lot more power-hungry. Sunway has more than three times as many cores as Tianhe-2, but it uses less overall power—15.37MW vs 17.8MW.

10 million-core supercomputer hits 93 petaflop/s, tripling speed record

Tianhe-2 had been the world's fastest in six consecutive rankings, which are released twice a year. Tianhe-2 took the top spot for the first time in June 2013, beating the previous fastest supercomputer, which held the position just once.

Developed by China's National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology, Sunway TaihuLight is installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, China. While Tianhe-2 uses Intel processors, Sunway TaihuLight was built entirely with processors designed and manufactured in China. Sunway TaihuLight uses a custom interconnect based on PCIe 3.0 technology.

Each node in Sunway TaihuLight has one SW26010 chip, a new version of the ShenWei processor that produces speeds of 3 teraflop/s with 260 cores. This is a 1.45GHz 64-bit RISC processor, but the Top500 announcement said "its underlying architecture is somewhat of a mystery."

"At 3 teraflops, the new ShenWei silicon is on par with Intel’s 'Knights Landing' Xeon Phi, another many-core design, but one with a much more public history," Top500 said. "In a bit of related irony, it was the US embargo of high-end processors, such as the Xeon Phi, imposed on a number of Chinese supercomputing centers in April 2015, which precipitated a more concerted effort in that country to develop and manufacture such chips domestically. The embargo probably didn’t impact the TaihuLight timeline, since it was already set to get the new ShenWei parts. But it was widely thought that Tianhe-2 was in line to get an upgrade using Xeon Phi processors, which would have likely raised its performance into 100-petaflop territory well before the Wuxi system came online."

While the US embargo is in place because of concern about nuclear research, Top500.org said Sunway TaihuLight is planned for use in research and engineering work in fields including climate, weather and Earth systems modeling, life science research, advanced manufacturing, and data analytics.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: China, supercomputers, technologies

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