China just outdid itself with the world’s most powerful supercomputer. The new Sunway TaihuLight at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi was just named the number one ranking computer according to the latest list compiled by Top500.
At peak capacity, the Sunway TaihuLight can perform 93,000 trillion calculations per second. That’s three times more efficient than the previous first place winner from China, Tianhe-2 in Guangzhou.
But the recent ranking is particularly significant for China because Sunway TaihuLight is the first supercomputer built completely of local components. At its heart is a Chinese manufactured chip called ShenWei. The chip can reach 3 teraflops and is on par with Intel’s powerful Xeon Phi chips.
Sunway TaihuLight will mainly be used for advanced manufacturing, weather forecasting and big data analytics, wrote Jack Dongarra in a report on the machine.
For the first time ever, China also beat the US in terms of total number of supercomputers on the list with 167 machines compared to the US’s 165.
“Considering that just 10 years ago, China claimed a mere 28 systems on the list, with none ranked in the top 30, the nation has come further and faster than any other country in the history of supercomputing,” said Top500.
The top 10 machines on the Top500 list include the top two from China, four from the US, and machines from Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
The achievements highlight the rapid progress China is making in the design and manufacture of large-scale computing systems. Not only the government, but Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Baidu have all been investing heavily in the past few years into systems that can handle vast amounts of data.
All this comes in contrast to the US government’s declining levels of spend in computer infrastructure with decades-old systems still in use today. The U.S. Department of Defense took some heat recently when a report exposed the fact that they’re housing nuclear defense systems on 1970s computers that use eight-inch floppy disks.
Interestingly, the Sunway TaihuLight was unveiled earlier than originally expected due to pressure to build the ShenWei chip locally after an April 2015 trade sanction from the US stopped a shipment of Intel Xeon Phi parts to China. At the time, Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology Cao Jianlin stated they were developing the chip in-house to work around the sanction.