China’s ‘leapfrogging’ in high performance computing

The Strategist – The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog, November 15, 2013

Nabeel A Mancheri, Research Fellow, Institute of Social Science, Tokyo University and Viswesh Rammohan, Research Associate, National Institute of Advanced Studies

headerIn June 2013, China once again surprised the world scientific community by introducing the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Tianhe-2 or Milky Way-2. TOP500 project lists the top 500 supercomputers of the world on the basis of a parameter called LINPACK benchmark. The biannual list is usually released in June and November. The benchmark was an idea conceived by Jack Dongarra. In simple terms, it’s the rate at which the supercomputer solves floating-point operations and is evaluated by making the supercomputer solve a dense system of linear equations. The Tianhe-2 isn’t the first super computer to emerge from China. China’s foray into the super computer field started with the introduction of Yinhe-I in 1983 with a performance level of 100 megaflops. Almost ten years later in 1992 it introduced Yinhe-II, achieving a performance of 1 gigaflop. Yinhe-III, an upgraded version of Yinhe-II introduced in 1996 achieved the performance level of 13 gigaflops, but it was still far behind the top supercomputers of the world. China considers technology as a core component of projecting a nation’s capability and prestige; national strength is allied to the ability to flex its muscles on the technological front. Supercomputing stands at the forefront of technology, with extensive use in practically every field, especially defence applications. In the article, Nabeel A Mancheri and Viswesh Rammohan analyse China’s surge in super computing, particularly its introduction of the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Tianhe-2.

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