China’s Tianhe-2 ‘is fastest supercomputer’

The machine is set to break U.S.’ monopoly in strategic technology

June 17, 2013 06:54 pm | Updated June 18, 2013 01:55 am IST - New Delhi

In this Oct. 2009 file photograph, operators check China's fastest super computer "Tianhe", meaning Milky Way, in Changsha, in China's Hunan Province. Now the country's defence scientists have developed, "Tianhe-2", which is capable of performing 33.86 quadrillion operations per second.

In this Oct. 2009 file photograph, operators check China's fastest super computer "Tianhe", meaning Milky Way, in Changsha, in China's Hunan Province. Now the country's defence scientists have developed, "Tianhe-2", which is capable of performing 33.86 quadrillion operations per second.

Development of a Chinese supercomputer, reported to be fastest in the world, will have far-reaching ramifications in the cyber world and is sure to break the U.S. monopoly in the field of strategic technology.

According to a survey results announced on Monday, Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, achieved processing speeds of 33.86 petaflops (1000 trillion calculations) per second on a benchmarking test. It earned the supercomputer the number one spot in the Top 500 survey of supercomputers, agency reports said.

The tests show the machine is by far the fastest computer ever constructed. Its main rival, the U.S.-designed Titan, had achieved a performance of 17.59 petaflops per second, the survey said. Five of the world’s 10 fastest computers are installed in the U.S., the survey said, with the two in China, two in Germany and one in Japan.

Responding to reports of Chinese supercomputer, the former chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), V.K. Saraswat described it as “a big breakthrough.” He said it would greatly augment the Chinese capabilities in the field of “very advanced cyber systems development.”

Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Saraswat said China had mounted efforts to develop such a machine long ago with the help of IT companies there and achieving such high speed in a supercomputer would boost its capabilities in both scientific and defence fields. It would not be easy for the rest of the world to get to share such highly advanced computing technology from China. “Generally, such supercomputers are meant for use in defence and scientific areas and are not commercially available. China is likely to use it for both offence and defensive purposes,” he added.

Dr. Saraswat said such a supercomputer could also be used for communication purposes, giving it access to high bandwidth.

Asked about India’s efforts in this direction, the former DRDO chief said the country suffered from a handicap in the area of all high-end computing systems which had to be imported and that was where “our vulnerability lies.” Dr. Saraswat said India needed huge investments in research in this field as the world was moving to new technologies such as silicon and photonic systems.

Agency reports said that unlike some of its Chinese predecessors, most of the Tianhe-2’s parts are developed in China, except for its main processors, which are designed by the U.S. firm Intel. But the U.S. still dominates the overall supercomputer rankings, with 252 systems making the top 500.

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