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China develops supercomputer

China has a new computer, and this one's not for your desktop.

China has a new computer, and this one's not for your desktop.

The new system is the Yinhe-3 supercomputer, and it's reportedly capable of performing 13 billion (giga) floating point operations per second. Floating point operations serve as a benchmark for the performance of a computer in handling complex scientific and engineering calculations.

Though it's not on par with U.S. supercomputers in performance, it's a big step as China strives to catch up with the supercomputer leaders in the United States and Japan. Supercomputers are often symbols of a country's computing prowess.

Developed by the Computer Institute of the National Defense Science and Technology University, the new system is a breakthrough for China in developing large-scale computer systems.

Reports of the new system from the Xinhua News Agency appeared in Nikkei's Biztech online news service.

The computer is more than ten times more powerful than its predecessor, the Yinhe-2, which was developed in 1992, but the Yinhe-3 takes up only one-sixth the room, according to the report.

Top commercial supercomputers in the United States, such as the Cray T3E-900, are capable of speeds in the teraflop, or trillion floating-point-operations-per-second range. Also, Intel has designed a supercomputer for the Department of Energy that can achieve over one teraflop.

Supercomputers are used in the research and defense communities for applications such as electromagnetics, chemistry, fluid dynamics, weather prediction, and 3D seismic predictions. The systems are based on large numbers of powerful processors working in parallel, with some systems using as many as 2048 separate processors.

A committee overseeing the project in China said the supercomputer can be made into a smaller version, with a processing speed of several hundred million operations per second, or into an even more powerful larger-scale version, according to the Biztech report.