Tianhe-3, a supercomputer that can deliver at least a billion billion calculations per second is being developed by China, which claims will be operational by 2020, that is 3 years ahead of the US, Liao Xiangke, head of the school of computing at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) has said. The US has plans to deliver an exascale supercomputer capable of 1,000 petaflops in 2023.
The exascale system will be the next major milestone in supercomputing performance. During the 13th Five-Year-Plan period (2016-2020), China will develop an ‘exascale computer’ under the national plan for the next generation of high performance computers.
“The government of Tianjin Binhai New Area, NUDT and the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin are working on the project, and we plan to name it Tianhe-3,” said Liao Xiangke.
"It's entirely probable that one or more governments will deploy supercomputers with hypothetical peak performance of an exaflop by 2020," said Steve Conway, a high-performance computing analyst at IDC. "An exaflop is an arbitrary milestone, a nice round figure with the kind of symbolic lure the four-minute mile once held."
But now the question is what exactly will China be capable of delivering in 2020? According to Conway, the first stage is likely be peak exaflop performance, and then a Linpack test. This will make it eligible for ranking on the Top 500 supercomputing list, he said.
But the measure "that counts most, but will be likely be celebrated least," said Conway, "is sustained exaflop performance on a full, challenging 64-bit application." According to him, the third stage probably will not take place until the 2022 to 2024, the timeframe set by the US.
Last year, the White House had released a plan for coordinating exascale development and defined an exascale system capable of "100 times the performance of current 10-petaflop systems across a range of applications representing government needs."
Application performance is what the US emphasis on and not on a peak performance record. Even if China delivers, Tianhe-3, the supercomputer by 2020, it will spark a debate over the usefulness of the machine.
Tianhe-1, China’s first petaflop supercomputer capable of at least a million billion calculations per second came into service in the supercomputing centre in 2010.
Tianhe-1 at present performs various tasks including oil exploration, high-end equipment manufacturing, biological medicine and animation design. It also serves nearly 1,000 customers, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.