Tianhe-1A : China’s New Supercomputer, Beats Cray XT5 Jaguar of US

The supercomputer, Tianhe-1A, unveiled at a conference in Beijing (China), is the world’s fastest supercomputer. The system is designed at the National University of Defense Technology in China. This supercompter, based in China’s National Center for Supercomputing, has already started working for the local weather service and the National Offshore Oil Corporation, BBC reports.

The previous speed leader is a computer called Cray XT5 Jaguar located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the United States. Tianhe-1A can perform faster than the Cray XT5 Jaguar.


The super computer set a performance record by crunching 2.507 petaflops of data at once (two-and-a-half thousand trillion operations per second), which is 40 percent more than the Cray XT5 Jaguar’s speed of 1.75 petaflops.

Tianhe-1A runs on Linux operating system. While the thousands of individual processors used in the supercomputer are made in America, the switches that connect those computer chips are built by Chinese scientists. The connection and the switches are critical success factor of a super computer, as the faster you make the interconnect, the better your overall computation will flow.

The super computer consists of 20,000 smaller computers linked together, and covers more than a third of an acre (17,000 square feet). It is sized more than 100 fridge-sized computer racks and together these weigh more than 155 tonnes. The Tianhe-1A is powered by 7168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 GPUs and 14336 Intel Xeon CPUs. The system consumes 4.04 megawatts of electricity.

NPR reports that, five new supercomputers are being built that are supposed to be four times more powerful than China’s new machine. Three are in the U.S.; two are in Japan.

Programming computer software that will manage a supercomputer’s thousands of individual processors to work together efficiently is the challenge in using the supercomputer. Supercomputers are used for really complicated problems like forecasting the weather or simulating our planet’s future climate. Until the super machine is put into use and its effectiveness is measured, it will simply remain as a cause of national pride, that’s all.

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