July 25, 2003 8:42 AM PDT

China, AMD team on Opteron supercomputer

China plans to create the world's third most powerful supercomputer, which will also be among the first such machines to use the Opteron processor from U.S. chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices.

According to China's People's Daily, Chinese supercomputer maker Dawning Information Industry will use 2,000 of these chips to make the Dawning 4000A, with help from AMD.

The 4000A will be a cluster comprised of computers that run a Chinese-designed Linux operating system and mainboard chips, the report said, and will aim to hit 10 teraflops in computing power.

According to the Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers, the top spot is held by the NEC Earth Simulator in Japan, with a 36-teraflop rating. This machine uses 5,120 vector processors, special chips that execute computational operations at a high speed with a single instruction.

The second and third spots were occupied by two identical HP systems called ASCI Q at Los Alamos National Laboratory that now have been combined into one with a 14-teraflop speed. The system uses 8,192 Alpha processors.

When the 4000A is ready for delivery next June--and assuming that the Top500 list remains unchanged--it will knock the third-place Linux Networx system with 2,304 Xeon processors, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, off its perch.

The highest ranking so far for a Chinese company on the chart was 43, achieved by the Legend Group last year, the report observed.

For China, the race to make powerful computers is a matter of national pride; the country ranks the activity, along with space exploration and genetic research, as key indicators of national progress.

The announcement of the 4000A sheds light on an AMD press release accidentally leaked in late June, which mentioned collaboration with a Chinese firm to build a supercomputer using AMD's new 64-bit Opteron processor. The recently launched Opteron is aimed at corporate server computers and competes with Intel's Itanium 2.

AMD has yet to make an official announcement on the Dawning 4000A, and AMD in Singapore could not give more details at press time.

However, by the time the Chinese machine is launched, it may well have been outclassed by faster Opteron-based supercomputers.

According to information on AMD's Web site, the company is working with U.S. supercomputer maker Cray on a massive 10,000-Opteron unit called Red Storm for the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. When ready next year, its 40-teraflop rating could leave the NEC Earth Simulator in the shade.

John Lui of CNETAsia reported from Singapore.

 

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