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Chinese Exascale Supercomputer Faces Frontier in Gordon Bell Prize

OceanLight
(Image credit: National Supercomputing Center - Wuxi, China.)

OceanLight, the Chinese exascale supercomputer that has defied listing in the Top500, has once again surged to prominence as a finalist in the Gordon Bell Prize. A yearly award in recognition for "outstanding achievement in high-performance computing," the Gordon bell Prize awards a $10,000 fund to the winner, picked from a group of five finalists. OceanLight, operated by the University of Science and Technology of China, once again races neck and neck with crowning jewels of Western supercomputing achievement such as Frontier and Summit, as well as Japan's Arm-based Fugaku.

OceanLight's supercomputing chops are impressive, especially when you take into account its technology. Besides being an exascale-class supercomputer, one of only a few in the world right now, OceanLight doesn't have the same amenities as those created outside of heavily sanctioned China. For one, China is barred from accessing cutting-edge manufacturing tech. This makes it wholly dependent on its internal manufacturing capabilities to provide most of the required components and technology that go into building such a massive machine.

This means that OceanLight has been built with technologies that have mostly been deprecated compared to that of the current Best GPUs and Best CPUs enthusiasts can get their hands on, let alone the cutting-edge manufacturing processes and technologies powering the likes of El Capitán, which will employ AMD-made MI300 APUs (opens in new tab). Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), China's homegrown CPU manufacturer, built OceanLight's exascale capabilities by leveraging a 14nm process for its SW26010-Pro CPUs.

According to some very educated math from Nextplatform, each SW26010-Pro CPU can deliver 14.03 teraflops of compute at either FP64 or FP32 precision and 55.3 teraflops at BF16 or FP16 precision. Extracting data from the previous Gordon Bell Prize entry the system took part in, it's estimated that OceanLight features a 107,520 node architecture with one SW26010-Pro per node, for a total of 41.93 million cores.

As each cabinet can support 40 nodes, that works out to 105 cabinets in total. And according to this year's Gordon Bell entry, the supercomputing workload that simulated as many as 2.5 billion atoms and their interactions called as many as 28.1 million of OceanLight's cores.

China's leveraging whatever technology it can to advance both its quantum and supercomputing capabilities, and the country isn't shy of the increased power consumption (mostly coal-based) and materials requirement that comes from scaling older, less advanced technology. Once again, where there's will and state-backed pockets, there's a way to plow forward 

Francisco Pires
Freelance News Writer

Francisco Pires is a freelance news writer for Tom's Hardware with a soft side for quantum computing.

  • tommo1982
    Interesting and all, I'm not sure that should be a priority now. If the situation won't change in Europe we might face a shortage of food due to draught. We don't need another energy wasting 'thing'. No matter what part of the world it is at.
    Reply
  • traxxmy
    tommo1982 said:
    Interesting and all, I'm not sure that should be a priority now. If the situation won't change in Europe we might face a shortage of food due to draught. We don't need another energy wasting 'thing'. No matter what part of the world it is at.
    Tell that to US that we don't need another war or cold war from them. Current food shortage is due to US own act on Russian sanction not draught.
    Reply
  • 2+2
    traxxmy said:
    Tell that to US that we don't need another war or cold war from them. Current food shortage is due to US own act on Russian sanction not draught.
    We don't need another energy wasting "thing",
    you mean like CERN,
    1.3 TWhrs, thankyou.

    Europe/Germany is a mess,
    because they went for green energy,
    and abandoned nuclear
    and mostly, allied with an evil tyrant for energy.

    Sure, blame the US for sanctions Europe has agreed to.
    What else would you prefer, surrender?
    And when China blockades Taiwan, surrender then too?
    You should well be aware, appeasement to nations on conquest
    only makes things worse.
    Reply
  • tommo1982
    traxxmy said:
    Tell that to US that we don't need another war or cold war from them. Current food shortage is due to US own act on Russian sanction not draught.
    US has food shortage? I didn't know the recent draught was so severe.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    tommo1982 said:
    Interesting and all, I'm not sure that should be a priority now.
    If you were talking about sports or gaming, I might agree.

    tommo1982 said:
    If the situation won't change in Europe we might face a shortage of food due to draught. We don't need another energy wasting 'thing'. No matter what part of the world it is at.
    HPC can be used to predict shifts in micro-climate, which farmers can use to figure out which crops they can switch to.

    Depending on how it's used, the energy needed to run these "things" can be seen as an investment. There are far worse uses of far greater amounts resources in the world...

    BTW, the one aspect I don't care about at all is the "race" angle. I think it's important to have HPC resources and I do like how they tend to push the envelope on technology, but I don't really care whether the US, China, Japan, or whomever has the fastest machine at any given point in time.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    2+2 said:
    We don't need another energy wasting "thing",
    you mean like CERN,
    1.3 TWhrs, thankyou.
    Investments into pure science pays dividends in very long-term and indirect ways.

    For instance, do you think we could be building such advanced semiconductors or quantum computers, without an ever-improving understanding of particle physics? I doubt it.

    2+2 said:
    Europe/Germany is a mess,
    because they went for green energy,
    and abandoned nuclear
    and mostly, allied with an evil tyrant for energy.
    Agreed, except that nuclear is greener than any fossil fuel.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    tommo1982 said:
    US has food shortage? I didn't know the recent draught was so severe.
    No, but many poor countries do. Ukraine and Russia are both traditionally major grain exporters. Russia also exports lots of fertilizer. I think neither Russian grain nor fertilizer were directly targeted by sanctions but still got snarled up in them. Most of that has been sorted out, through agreements brokered by the UN, which took entirely too long to come to fruition.

    In the meantime, much of Europe is facing historic droughts, further pushing up world food prices.
    Reply