China helps move supercomputing into the mainstream

Global Business

China helps move supercomputing into the mainstream

In Denver, Colorado, 16 teams of college students from around the world, including three from China, compete to solve four scientific problems, by running applications on computer clusters they designed themselves.

“I can see the speedup of the applications goes really high and that makes me feel really proud of this work,” Tsinghua University Student Li Bichen said.

These computer whizzes may be the future.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports from the world’s largest supercomputing conference.

“I’ve heard a lot of very smart people say I wasn’t this smart back then,” Student Cluster Competition Chair Stephen Harrell.

Harrell ran the competition at the recent SC17 Supercomputing Conference, a high-performance computing showcase. He said it’s a niche field but the need for it is growing and growing. The event brought the SCinet installation. According to Communications Co-Chair Amber Rasche, it’s the the world’s fastest temporary network.

Six racks of computer networking equipment delivered 3.6 terabits per second of connectivity to the convention floor. Enough to download a two-hour HD movie in 12 milliseconds.

Computers have become much faster and more powerful in recent years. Supercomputers now routinely perform a thousand trillion so-called floating point operations per second or more. That’s known as a petaFLOP. Trust me, that’s a lot.

“Every 11 years you have computers which are 1,000 times more powerful,” Bernd Mohr, SC17’s General Chair said.

Mohr said supercomputers now crunch numbers in more areas than ever before. Complex systems that require lots of simulations, like climate change, smart cities and the human brain.

“The more detailed and more accurate you try to simulate the real thing, the more you have to do calculations,” said Mohr.

Supercomputers, for example, help analyze the way air moves alongside a patient in the hospital as way of reducing infections.

“And through good air flow in the operating room you can reduce the risk of those infections dramatically,” High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart’s Uwe Woessner said.

Supercomputing has also spawned a whole industry. Paratera, based in Beijing, provides technical support to high performance computing centers.

“HPC now is growing very fast, especially in China you know,” Paratera Application Director Nan Qiao said.

In fact, China now has more systems on the list of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers than any other country. This field is expanding its reach in our lives. When it comes to these machines, the future just may be now.