Chinese supercomputers to use homemade microchips

March 8th, 2011 - 9:34 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, March 8 (IANS) China-made supercomputers will stop using foreign microchips in 2011 and start using their own core components by the end of this year, one of the country’s leading scientists has said.

Hu Weiwu, chief developer of the Loongson series of microchips at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said the “Dawning 6000″ supercomputer, jointly developed by the Institute of Computing Technology of the CAS and the Dawning Information Industry Company (DIIC), will adopt homemade microchips for the first time as its core component.

The new supercomputer will have a computing speed of more than 1,000 trillion operations a second, China Daily reported. It will be available as early as this summer.

Making supercomputers with China-made microchips is one of the nation’s major science and technology projects.

Three organisations - the Institute of Computing Technology of the CAS, Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology and the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) - have their own supercomputer projects.

At present, the Tianhe-1A, developed by the NUDT in Hunan, is the fastest supercomputer in the world. However, Tianhe-1A largely runs on 14336 CPUs made by Intel, and 7186 graphics processing units from Nvidia, two US chip-makers.

Hu said there will be difficulties ahead as there are few applications developed for these supercomputers.

“We have enough supercomputers in China but still can’t fully utilise them,” he said.

“There are lots of scientific questions waiting for answers from supercomputer calculation. But we still need good algorithm and good data collection to make it work,” Hu said.

“Each year the electricity bill could cost more than 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) for one supercomputer, and we are only using one tenth of its capacity at most,” Hu said.

Hu said although the China-made CPUs have improved since they were first produced in 2002, they have a long way to go to compete with US chip-makers.

Supercomputers can be used on national defence projects as well as scientific projects in geology, meteorology and medicine.

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