Washington: A Chinese scientific research centre has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the US as maker of the swiftest machine, a media report said Thursday.
The Chinese made Tianhe-1A system has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, the US, a newspaper reported.
Although the official list of the top 500 fastest machines, which comes out every six months, is not due to be completed next week, Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings, said the Chinese computer "blows away the existing No. 1 machine".
"We don`t close the books until November 1, but I would say it is unlikely we will see a system that is faster," he said.
Officials from the Chinese research centre, the National University of Defense Technology, are expected to reveal the computer at a conference in Beijing Thursday.
Tianhe-1A, which is housed in a building at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, can perform 2.5 times 10 to the 15th power mathematical operations per second that is 29 million times faster than one of the earliest supercomputers, built in 1976, the newspaper report said.
The race to build the fastest supercomputer has become a source of national pride as these machines are valued for their ability to solve problems critical to national interests in areas like defence, energy, finance and science.
For decades, the US had a clear edge, developing most of the underlying technology that goes into the massive supercomputers. Some of the top US systems simulate the effects of nuclear weapons, while others predict weather and aid in energy research.
In 2002, the US lost its crown as the supercomputing kingpin for the first time in a stunning fashion when Japan unveiled a machine with more horsepower than the top 20 American computers combined.
The US government responded in kind, forming groups to plot a comeback and pouring money into supercomputing projects. The US regained its leadership status in 2004, and has kept it, until now, says the report.
Over the last decade, the Chinese have steadily inched up in the rankings of supercomputers. Tianhe-1A stands as the culmination of billions of dollars in investment and scientific development, as China has gone from a computing afterthought to a world technology superpower.
"What is scary about this is that the US dominance in high-performance computing is at risk," said Wu-chun Feng, a supercomputing expert and professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Modern supercomputers are built by combining thousands of small computer servers and using software to turn them into a single entity. In that sense, any organisation with enough money and expertise can buy what amount to off-the-shelf components and create a fast machine.
The Chinese system follows that model by linking thousands and thousands of chips made by the American companies Intel and Nvidia. But the secret sauce behind the system - and the technological achievement - is the interconnect, or networking technology, developed by Chinese researchers that shuttles data back and forth across the smaller computers at breakneck rates, Dongarra said.
"That technology was built by them," Dongarra said. "They are taking supercomputing very seriously and making a deep commitment."
First Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010, 17:57