China has entered an elite group of countries making the world's fastest supercomputers, as a high-performance system in Shanghai took 10th place in a recent ranking of the 500 fastest systems globally.
The world's toughest computing challenges are tackled on bulky supercomputers, which are used for intensive tasks such as meteorological modelling, human genome mapping and nuclear blast simulation.
The Dawning 4000A is the first Chinese-made supercomputer to enter the top 10, according to a group of researchers who compile the top 500 list in June and November each year. The rankings are based on the Linpack benchmark, which measures processor speed and scalability.
The computer was made by Dawning Information Industry Corp, a leading manufacturer of Microsoft and Unix-based servers on the mainland that was acquired by Hong Kong-listed Shenzhen High-Tech Holdings in 2001 for $201 million.
Running 2,560 parallel AMD Opteron processors at 2.2 gigahertz, the huge computer was installed this year in a space measuring a quarter of a football field inside the Shanghai Supercomputer Centre at the Zhangjiang High-Tech Park in Pudong. It can handle 8.06 teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second.
A total of 14 supercomputers in China made the top 500 list this year, up from nine in last November's rankings. In addition to foreign-made systems from IBM and Hewlett-Packard, the list includes three mainland firms - Dawning, Lenovo and Lanchao - and one machine built by computer scientists at Shenzhen University.
Lenovo's Intel processor-based DeepComp 6800, installed at the Chinese Academy of Science, previously the mainland's fastest supercomputer at No14 last year, fell to No26 this time.
Two other Intel-based Lenovo supercomputers made the latest ranking. The DeepComp 1800 at the Academy of Mathematics and System Science clocked in at 169, while another DeepComp 1800 at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics lumbered into the 388th slot.
The Earth Simulator supercomputer, built by NEC and installed in 2002 at the Earth Simulator Centre in Yokohama, Japan, retained the No1 position with a Linpack benchmark performance of 35.86 teraflops.
The list included 89 supercomputer sites in Asia, where Japan continues to dominate with 34 systems. Its 23rd edition will be formally unveiled today at the International Supercomputer Conference in Heidelberg, Germany.
The list was compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Centre/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee.