Celebrating as if greeting a firstborn, a group of PhDs flung open the door of a factory building in Shenzhen and let loose a giant hooah. After 45 days of round-the-clock work by two teams, the group had just become the first in China-and the third in the world-to break the petaflops barrier.
Hearing the whoops of his colleagues on April 30, Zheng Qian, an embedded software developer at Dawning Information Industry Co. Ltd., "felt like it was a miracle."
"The whole building was excited," said Zheng, a member of one of the teams, which had put in alternating 12-hour shifts to assemble and debug the system.
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A month later, the rest of the world learned the news that the Nebulae supercomputer had hit 1.27 Pflops on the Linpack benchmark, placing it second on the updated list of Top 500 supercomputers that Top500.org released May 31. "The CEO of our company invited us to have a meal and a ceremony to celebrate," said Zheng, who had helped design a management module for the system.
In a way, the researchers were celebrating twins. The Nebulae system is a hybrid, comprising Intel Xeon 5650 CPUs and 4,640 Nvidia Tesla C2050 graphics accelerators as coprocessors. Such dual-headed supers are becoming the norm.
In 2008, IBM Corp. built Roadrunner, the first petaflops systems, using AMD Opteron chips and versions of the IBM Cell graphics processors. Cray built Jaguar, the world's second petaflops computer, using just AMD's six-core Istanbul X86 processors.
While Dawning's engineers were incubating Nebulae in Shenzhen, their counterparts in Tianjin were building a hybrid system out of Intel Xeon and AMD graphics chips. The resulting Tianhe-1, developed at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) National Supercomputer Center, was seventh on the Top 500 list this year.