China has started to build a new-generation supercomputer that is expected to be 10 times faster than the current world champion, a media report said. This year, China is aiming for breakthroughs in high-performance processors and other key technologies to build the world’s first prototype exascale supercomputer, the Tianhe-3, said Meng Xiangfei, the director of application at the National Super Computer Tianjin Centre, on Monday. The prototype is expected to be completed by 2018, the China Daily reported. “Exascale” means it will be capable of making a quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros) calculations per second. That is at least 10 times faster than the world’s current speed champ, the Sunway TaihuLight, China’s first supercomputer to use domestically designed processors. That computer has a peak speed of 125 quadrillion (1 followed by 15 zeros) calculations per second, he said. “Its computing power is on the next level, cementing China as the world leader in supercomputer hardware,” Meng said.
It would be available for public use and “help us tackle some of the world’s toughest scientific challenges with greater speed, precision and scope”, he added. Tianhe-3 will be made entirely in China, from processors to operating system. It will be stationed in Tianjin and fully operational by 2020, earlier than the US plan for its exascale supercomputer, he said. Tianhe-1, China’s first quadrillion-level supercomputer developed in 2009, is now working at full capacity, undertaking more than 1,400 assignments each day, solving problems “from stars to cells”.
The exascale supercomputer will be able to analyse smog distribution on a national level, while current models can only handle a district, the daily said. Tianhe-3 also could simulate earthquakes and epidemic outbreaks in more detail, allowing swifter and more effective government responses, Meng said. The new machine also will be able to analyse gene sequence and protein structures in unprecedented scale and speed. That may lead to new discoveries and more potent medicine, he said.