SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A homegrown, ultrafast interconnect chip set was part of the secret sauce behind the Tianhe-1a, the first China-built system to be named the world's fastest supercomputer. The 160 Gbit/second Galaxy interconnect links thousands of the latest Intel Westmere and Nvidia Fermi processors in the system that will be used for a broad range of scientific research.
The Tainhe-1a in Tianjin was measured at 2.5 petaflops using the Linpack benchmark. The previous top supercomputer was the U.S.-based Jaguar built by Cray using six-core AMD processors to deliver 1.7 petaflops.
The accomplishment is a major milestone for China's advancing electronics industry. The Galaxy interconnect is twice as fast as the Infiniband QDR interconnects used on many of today's fastest supercomputers based on chips from Mellanox Technologies.
U.S. researchers said the news underscores the need for greater federal spending in the U.S. on research in high-performance systems. "It’s a sign they are making a long term investment," said Jack Dongarra, University of Tennessee researcher who helps compile the twice annual Top 500 list of supercomputers.
"The next stage would be replacing the U.S. processors—and they are executing on chips replacing the Intel and Nvidia parts," said Dongarra, referring to China's Godson processors. "Then the machine becomes more interesting and of greater concern" to U.S. researchers, he said.
A China-built supercomputer in Shenzhen hit number two on the Top 500 supercomputer list published in June using Intel and Nvidia processors. Researchers on that project said their next-generation system will use China's Godson chips.
The U.S. has "not made adequate investment across the board on the key components of the supercomputer ecosystem," he said.