China fires up homegrown petaflops super
The Sunway Bluelight special
The Chinese government has booted up the first of three homegrown, petaflops-class massively parallel supercomputers based on indigenous technology.
The Sunway Bluelight – or Divinity Blue-Ray depending on how you want to translate its name from Chinese – is based on a 16-core processor, rumored to be a derivative of the DEC Alpha 21164. Which is both odd and interesting at the same time.
The Sunway Bluelight machine is based on this SW1600 chip, according to various reports – The New York Times got the scoop in the English-speaking papers. The Bluelight super has 8,704 SW1600 processors, which are an offshoot of RISC processors designed by the Chinese military for its own use, and presumably licensed from Digital shortly before or after it was eaten by Compaq in 1998.
The Bluelight Special is installed at the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan, which is in China's Shandong province.
The details on the SW1600 chip are sketchy, but in this presentation captured by IT168.com, the processors are 64-bit and run at between 975MHz and 1.1GHz, delivering somewhere between 124.8 and 140.8 gigaflops per chip.
According to a blog post by Oracle/Sun watcher Hung-Sheng Tsao, the Bluelight super has a peak theoretical performance of 1.07 petaflops and a sustained performance of 795.9 teraflops on the Linpack Fortran benchmark test that is commonly used to rate the raw performance of massively parallel machines doing number-crunching work.
The machine also burns 1.074 megawatts of juice, which is impressively efficient, and has water blocks on key electronic components for cooling. Other machines in the petaflops class consume multiple megawatts these days.
The Bluelight design puts two SW1600 processors onto a single card with 16GB of main memory soldered right onto board so they can be packed densely. Four of these cards plug into a single 1U chassis, and a rack of these machines has 1,024 sockets or 16,384 cores.
To break through 1 petaflops, you need only nine racks of the Bluelight nodes, and these are arranged in an oval pattern – just to be different. The nodes are linked using Quad Data Rate (40Gb/sec) InfiniBand switches, and in this case, China is using a mix of 256-port and 324-port switches of unknown origin. The InfiniBand is used to link the nodes in a fat tree configuration with 2 microsecond latency in node hops.
If you want to see a video of the new machines, check out China Central Television here.
The SW1600 is not the only indigenous chip that the Chinese government is investing in to be put into supercomputers and other devices. The Loongson ( in English, Godson) processors, which are a licensed iteration on the 64-bit MIPS chips formerly controlled by Silicon Graphics, are part of another petaflops-class supercomputer that came to light in January 2010.
The Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed the feeds and speeds of the Godson chips at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference hosted by the IEEE back in February this year. The current Godson-3B is an eight-core chip, and the plan is to ramp it to sixteen cores.
This chip, which will have an x86 emulation mode, will be used in the Dawning 6000 supercomputer, which aims to break 1 petaflops as well when it is installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Shenzhen. This Dawning 6000 system is based on a blade server design rather than rack servers, with each blade holding an impressive sixteen chips for a total of 256 cores per blade – that's two eight-socket boards mounted end-to-end.
The Bluelight super was installed in September and revealed late last week. It should feature prominently in the next Top 500 super computer ranking that comes out at the SC11 conference in Seattle in two weeks. But it will not be at the top of the list. ®
<The title ate my dog>
As a westerner living in China, i can believe most of this story. China has a plan that says, within the next 5 years it will be the top tech manufacturer in the world; they have already made a lot of headway it must be said.
Towns can pop up in about 3 months, from small hamlet to having 8 big factories. The government is pouring money in the right places and...in to officials pockets. Banks and lawyers are not Gods here like they are in England so things actually get done.
I would highly recommend the British government start saying FU to financial services and start putting money in to research of tech again if we stand even half a chance...The one thing China doesn't have (just yet) is the level of universities we have in the west. Again though, start saying FU to so many marketing courses though.
My two cents
Just continue to keep your head in the sand, Justin -
after all, a country with huge reserves of intellectual talent that dominated world trade until 1850 and now is regaining its former place will never never be able to create anything worthwhile. Everything they do is, bien sûr, either fake, or due to piracy from the brilliant, but o so naive «West»....
Yeah, like Alpha was not a power hog in its hayday
Alpha was a powerhog beyond anything Intel produced in those days. As it was the only game in town in terms of 64 bit linux I had no choice but to use them despite the circa 100W CPU power consumption. While 100W does not sound a lot today, 12 years ago P3 ate 22W tops and K6 ate even less than that.