In Race for Fastest Supercomputer, China Outpaces U.S.

Newsweek (11/28/11) Dan Lyons

China is outpacing the United States in terms of supercomputer development. In November the Chinese debuted the Tianhe-1A, a supercomputer with five times the processing power of the biggest computer at the U.S.’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The country that develops a superior high-performance computing system gains massive economic and military advantages, and the U.S.’s loss to a competing nation in the field of supercomputing could jeopardize its edge in many scientific, security, and military areas. To close the gap, Livermore scientists are developing Sequoia, a supercomputer that will combine 1.6 million microprocessors and trump the Tianhe-1A’s computing power by a factor of eight. Although the United States has 263 of the world’s 500 largest supercomputers, China has built 74 in just 10 years. Adding to U.S. developers’ pain are Chinese organizations devising supercomputer components that will allow China to end its reliance on U.S. vendors for parts. Livermore scientists also project the emergence of an exascale machine that taps the computing muscle of about 1 billion microprocessors and delivers six times the power of Sequoia within a decade. Crucial to this milestone will be a new kind of microprocessor that is far more energy-efficient than today’s chips.

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