Sci & Tech

Supercomputer Tianhe great success for China: German expert

English.news.cn   2010-11-06 23:32:50 FeedbackPrintRSS

File photo of China's world-leading supercomputer, Tianhe-1A. (Xinhua File Photo)

by Xinhua Writer Zheng Qihang

BERLIN, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- China's world-leading new supercomputer, Tianhe-1A, had shown the world what could be done using general-purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPUs), a German expert said.

"I think this is a great success for China," said Dr. Norbert Attig, head of the Application Support Division in Juelich Supercomputing Center.

"The major part of the speed of the system comes from GPUs. So It shows the world it's possible to build a high-end supercomputer out of GPGPUs," Attig told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Friday.

China published its own Top 100 list of supercomputers on Oct. 28 and Tianhe-1A took the top position with a sustained performance of 2.507 petaflop (2.507 quadrillion calculations every second), 1.425 times faster than the previous fastest supercomputer, Jaguar in the United States.

Tianhe-1A was expected to get the title in the Top 500 list of supercomputers later this month at a supercomputing conference in the United States.

Tianhe-1A is now equipped with 14,336 Xeon X5670 processors and 7,168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 general purpose GPUs.

Attig said China's fast development in supercomputing was both a good thing and a challenge for the world.

From China, the world now knew a supercomputer based on GPGPUs really worked, he said, adding it also intensified the competition in related areas.

"I think the competition will remain over the next years because it's absolutely clear that supercomputing is a key technology for many areas in science as well as in industry," he said.

"So it is of course highly substantial to have supercomputing applied to many science and industry areas. And if you can do this, you will really have a gift on these issues," he said.

"The U.S. has just launched the Blue Water project and the Blue Water supercomputer will become available at the end of 2011 or October 2011. From the current data, it will be faster than Tianhe-1A," he said.

"If Tianhe-1A can keep upgrading its performance in the next 12 months, it may also hold the top position," Attig said.

There was also competition between different computer architectures, he said. Besides GPGPU-based, like Tianhe-1A, there were many other architectures like Blue Gene and Power 7.

"I doubt it will become a single architecture in the future," Attig said. The prospects of these different architectures might depend on their abilities for applications.

Talking about applications, Attig noted several challenges for Tianhe-1A.

"As I know, programming those GPUs are not easy. And if you want to address a broad prospect of applications lying on your system, you must have deep knowledge of using GPUs," he said. "The GPGPU system is at moment the least on the market."

"I doubt GPGPUs can serve 70 or 80 percent of our current applications. At present, only a few can benefit from its super calculating power," he said.

"But it will evolve and become easier for many scientists to use this system," he added.

Attig also recommended China strengthen cooperation on the applications according to its interests with the U.S. and Europe, who have a long history of using it.

"Europe and the U.S. have broad applications running on different generations of supercomputers and we have gained a lot of experiences on how to deal with these applications," he said.

After mastering the technology to build supercomputers, the other challenge left was to apply these systems efficiently, he said.

"I think this is something China can learn from Europe and from the U.S. How applications can be tuned, optimized and adopted to new architectures to run them efficiently."

On the future of supercomputers, Attig mentioned two challenges. One was the requirement for supercomputers' capability and programming to become higher as their applications widen. The other was how to reduce the power consumption of more powerful supercomputers in the future to a reasonable level.

At present, Juelich Supercomputing Center owns Jugene, the fastest supercomputer in Europe and fifth in the world, according to the Top 500 list released on May 31 this year.

Related:

China's fastest supercomputer Tianhe-1 creates new speed record

BEIJING, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- China's Tianhe-1 has overtaken Nebule to regain top spot as China's fastest computer according to a new list of China's Top 100 supercomputers released Thursday.

On the biannual world TOP 500 list published in June, China's Nebulae machine took the second spot only after the U.S.'s Jaguar system, while Tianhe-1 took seventh place.   Full story

Editor: yan
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