No need for Intel or AMD.
During the annual meeting of the National High Performance Computing (HPC China 2011) last week, held in Jinan, China, the new Sunway BlueLight MPP supercomputer was introduced to the world. While China did create a supercomputer of their own last year, the Tianhe-1A, the fastest in the world at the time, it actually used processors from Intel and Nvidia. The rest of the architecture was designed in China, sure, but not what you’d call a homegrown product.
A journalist shoots video footage of the data storage system of the Sunway Bluelight supercomputer at the newly established National Supercomputing Center in Jinan. Source: XINHUA
The Sunway Bluelight, though, is completely unique architecture created by Chinese engineers, from the circuit boards, to the chassis to the water cooling solution to the CPUs. So everything was created and assembled in China. The Sunway Bluelight uses 8,700 ‘ShenWei SW1600′ CPUs. Each 64-bit CPU has 16 cores on it, running between 0.975MHz to 1.2GHz. One core running 1.1GHz gives 140.8 Gflops; comparitively the Intel 980X with 6 cores running at 3.33GHz (turboing up to 3.6GHz) provides 107.58 Gflops, and a Core i7-2600K gives 83.30 Gflops. So 8,700 of these CPUs provide 1 Petaflop of peak performance. That’s 1,000 trillion calculations per second, putting the Sunway somewhere in the top 20 fastest supercomputers.
The lower clock speeds of around 1.2GHz also means that there’s a lot less power consumption, resulting in a a mere 1 megawatt power draw, compared to 4 megawatt of the Tianhe, running at 4.7Gflops peak.
“It shows that there’s a significant effort underway in China to build multicore processors that can be put into the world’s fastest computers,” Jack Dongarra, the University of Tennessee professor who oversees the annual list of the Top 500 supercomputers, told Wired. “And you have to wonder what their strategy is in terms of pushing these chips outside of their borders.” The idea, within China, at least, seems to be that these low powered processors will be replacing the Intel and AMD server grade chips. “Don’t think of this in terms of supercomputing,” says Dongarra. “There’s a low-end that where these chips can work. You can imagine these chips replacing all the Intel chips in the China.”