China adding more supercomputers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am

Mainland narrows the gap with Asian leader Japan but big-money foreign manufacturers still on top of the list

About four years since mainland players launched their first commercial supercomputers, China has narrowed the gap with Japan to become Asia's fastest-growing market for these high-performance computing systems.

The latest survey of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers shows the mainland with 28 ranked systems - an increase from 17 last year - that include machines from local manufacturers Dawning Information Industry Corp, Lenovo Group and Galactic Computing.

Japan remained just slightly ahead with 29 systems, up from 21 a year ago, based on the latest rankings announced last week at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

'China has continued to improve on the number of installed systems ranked in the world's Top500 supercomputer list and local manufacturers are competing well in the mainland market,' said Horst Simon, associate laboratory director for computer sciences at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is also one of three researchers who have compiled the top-ranked supercomputers list twice a year since 1993.

The toughest computing problems are tackled on bulky supercomputers that could fill a large room. These are used for such complex tasks as meteorological modelling, human-genome mapping and nuclear-blast simulation to more commercial endeavours as financial modelling and product design.

Chinese-made supercomputers in the 27th edition of the Top500 list included the No53 ranked Dawning 4000A at the Shanghai Supercomputer Centre, No125 Lenovo DeepComp 6800 at the Chinese Academy of Science and No224 Galactic Supercomputing Blade System GT4000 at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen. The Dawning 4000A was the first Chinese-made supercomputer to make a big splash on the world's Top500 rankings when it landed at No10 in 2004.

Erich Strohmaier, computer scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the founding researchers of the world's Top500 supercomputers list, noted China was already 'on the same level with major European countries as a consumer of high-performance computing systems'.

In March, mainland authorities announced the purchase of a $1.5 million supercomputer from Galactic to help forecast the weather during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Lenovo, which was the first Chinese computer maker to release commercial supercomputers in 2002, saw domestic market demand for high-performance computers driven by scientific research, hydroelectric power, petroleum detection and exploration, and university applications.

But Lenovo vice-president Alice Li said the company's supercomputer activities remained at the 'incubation stage' because the focus was on growing its personal computer market. 'At present, we have no plan to expand the supercomputer business overseas,' she said.

As such, the supercomputer installations on the mainland continued to be dominated by high-performance systems made by IBM and Hewlett-Packard. At No35, the highest-ranked system on the mainland this year was IBM's eServer pSeries 655 at the China Meteorological Administration.

Despite the home advantage of local players, deep-pocketed foreign players were better positioned to land government deals. 'They have been doing business in China for 20 years and they are well-connected at different levels,' said Billy Yung, the chairman and chief executive of Shell Electric Manufacturing (Holdings), the Hong Kong-listed company that owns Galactic.

In the latest Top500 rankings, the US continues to lead with 298 systems. Asia has 93 systems on the list to edge Europe with 83 machines on the list.

IBM remained the leading supplier for the global high-performance computing market with its BlueGene/L System claiming the undisputed No1 position.

Researchers expected the IBM system to remain unchallenged over the next few editions of the Top500 list. The BlueGene/L System, a joint development of IBM and the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has been No1 in since November 2004.

It has reached a Linpack benchmark performance of 280.6 teraflops - or trillions of floating point calculations per second - and remains the only system to exceed the level of 100 teraflops.

Global rankings are based on the Linpack benchmark which measures processor speed and scalability.

Almost half or 48.6 per cent of the latest Top500 list consist of IBM-brand supercomputers. In addition, four of the 10 highest-ranked systems are from IBM. Firmly in second place is HP with a 30.8 per cent share of systems in the Top500 list.


China?s highest-ranked supercomputers

Global rank





China Meteorological Administration

IBM e Server pSeries 655



Shanghai Supercomputer Centre

Dawning 4000A



Chinese Academy of Science

Lenovo's DeepComp 6800




HP Cluster Platform 4000 DL145




IBM BladeCenter HS20 Cluster



Petroleum company

IBM BladeCenter HS20 Cluster




IBM BladeCenter HS20 Cluster




IBM BladeCenter HS20 Cluster



Galactic Computing (Shenzhen)

Blade System GT4000 Galactic Computing


Source: Top500 Supercomputer List - 27th edition