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China's newest supercomputer uses homegrown chips

The supercomputer uses 8,704 microprocessers developed by a Shanghai group

China has built its first supercomputer based entirely on homegrown microprocessors, a major step in breaking the country's reliance on Western technology for high-performance computing.

China's National Supercomputer Center in Jinan unveiled the computer last Thursday, according to a report from the country's state-run press. The supercomputer uses 8,704 "Shenwei 1600" microprocessors, which were developed by a design center in Shanghai, called the National High Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center.

Details of the microprocessors and the design center were not immediately available.

The supercomputer has a theoretical peak speed of 1.07 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), and a sustained performance of 0.79 petaflops when measured with the Linpack benchmark. This could place it at number 13 in the world's top 500 supercomputing list. Photos of the chips used and the supercomputer's data center can be found here.

China's Shandong Academy of Sciences built the computer. Officials of the academy could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

A report from The New York Times said the supercomputer's name in English was the Sunway BlueLight MPP.

China is increasingly investing in supercomputing technology. Last November, its Tianhe-1A supercomputer briefly grabbed the spot as the world's most powerful, but the computer used chips from Intel and Nvidia. The Tianhe-1A has a theoretical peak speed of 4.7 petaflops and a sustained performance of 2.5 petaflops.

China currently has 61 supercomputers on the top 500 list. In comparison, the U.S. has 255 on the list. Japan's "K Computer" is currently ranked first in the top 500 list, after bumping Tianhe-1A to the second place.

Experts have been anticipating that China would build its own supercomputer, using domestically developed chips. Chinese state-run press hailed the new supercomputer as a symbol of China's strength.


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