China unveils another supercomputer -- but not its fastest

The Tianhe-1 is based on the technology used by Tianhe-1A, briefly the world's most powerful supercomputer

China has built another supercomputer using the same technology as the Tianhe-1A system, which reigned briefly as the world's most powerful supercomputer.

The new supercomputer, called Tianhe-1, has a theoretical peak speed of 1.1 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), slower than the Tianhe-1A, which has a theoretical peak speed of 4.7 petaflops and a sustained performance of 2.5 petaflops when measured with the Linpack benchmark.

Tianhe-1 went into operation this weekend at the national Changsha supercomputer center in the country's Hunan province. It will be used to perform simulations that will forecast the weather, help with disaster prevention and aid industrial fields including automobile manufacturing and medical research.

By October Tianhe-1 will have a theoretical peak speed of 3 petaflops, according to Lu Yutong, a professor with China's National University of Defense Technology, which built the system. That could place it at number five in the Top 500 supercomputing list. The TSUBAME 2.0, located in Japan, currently holds that rank and has a theoretical peak speed of 2.2 petaflops.

Back in November, the Tianhe-1A grabbed the highest spot on the Top 500 supercomputing list. It was the first time a Chinese system ranked as the number one by Linpack benchmark performance. It also ended six years of U.S. supercomputer dominance of the top spot on the list.

Last month, Tianhe-1A fell back to second place as a new system from Japan took the top spot. The K computer was measured to have a speed at 8.16 petaflops, making it more powerful than the next five systems combined.

But even as the Tianhe-1A saw its rank fall, more supercomputers from China are making the Top 500 list. The current tally is now at 61, up from the 24 the country had a year ago in June. The U.S. has 255 computers on the list.

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Michael Kan

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