Made in China: Country's new supercomputer uses homegrown chips

Flexing its growing semiconductor muscles, China uses domestic chips for its latest supercomputer. How fast will the country close the gap with U.S. companies Intel, AMD, and Nvidia?

China is stepping up its semiconductor manufacturing efforts and using domestic chips for its latest supercomputer. It's going to be interesting to see how fast China can close in on U.S. supercomputer processor makers Intel, AMD, and Nvidia.

The New York Times reported that a supercomputer called Sunway BlueLight MPP, was installed in September at the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan, China. The details emerged at a technical meeting. The real catch is that China used 8,700 ShenWei SW1600 chips.

Those semiconductors are homegrown and indicate that China is aiming to be a major chip player. The New York Times story was mostly sourced to Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee, but Chinese sites reported on the technical meeting. Dongarra helps manage the list of Top 500 supercomputers. China's previous supercomputers used Intel and Nvidia chips.

Meanwhile, ZDNet UK highlighted the blog of Hung-Sheng Tsao, founder of HopBit GridComputing, who posted the slides detailing the Sunway BlueLight MPP, which come from IT168.com. IT168.com covered China's supercomputing powwow extensively this week.

ZDNet UK's Jack Clark noted:

According to (Tsao's) slides, which appear to be from a presentation describing the computer's capabilities, the ShenWei Sunway BlueLight MPP has 150TB of main storage and 2PB of external storage. Each ShenWei SW1600 processor is 64-bit, has 16-cores and is RISC-based.

Here's a Google Translate link offering more details via IT168.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the China domestic supercomputing effort is very credible and signals an effort to cut the country's reliance on western companies. It's unclear whether China's chips are completely original blueprints or based on a previous design. One issue for the Sunway chips is power consumption. The Sunway supercomputer apparently doesn't need that much power relative to rivals.

The New York Times added that that ShenWei chip appears to be based "on some of the same design principles that are favored by Intel's most advanced microprocessors."

China's efforts appear to be a few generations behind, but rest assured the country will try to close any gaps quickly.

This story was originally posted at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "China steps up its semiconductor game with homegrown supercomputer effort."

 

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