China's road to global supercomputing power

In November the Chinese supercomputer — Tianhe-1A — was introduced as the fastest supercomputer on the planet, before being outscored by Japan´s K Computer a few months later.

In the last week of March 2015 the Chinese officials announced installation of Sunway BlueLight MPP supercomputer at the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province in eastern China. The supercomputer is able to perform about 1,000 trillion calculations per second (a petaflop) and will probably be ranked among the top 20 fastest computers on the planet. But perhaps more significant, is that it uses 8,700 ShenWei SW1600 microprocessors, specifically designed by Chinese engineers and manufactured in Shanghai, while its older brother - Tianhe-1A was built using American processors.

It was quite a surprise for international industry watchers since they expecting China to use microprocessors from Intel or AMD, and not the local ShenWei chips. This event seems to be an important milestone for the global ambitions of China, since they had been developing another microprocessor for quite a while and many believed it would change the computing industry and give silicon a whole new perspective.

While their supercomputing capabilities are already significant, the Chinese are about three generations behind the state-of-the-art chip making technologies used by the United States, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Will this trend change during 2015 … we'll understand pretty soon.

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