China's first natively built supercomputer goes online — the Central Intelligent Computing Center is liquid-cooled and built for AI

Supercomputer rendering
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

China Telecom claims it has built the country's first supercomputer constructed entirely with Chinese-made components and technology (via ITHome). Based in Wuhan, the Central Intelligent Computing Center supercomputer is reportedly built for AI and can train large language models (LLM) with trillions of parameters. Although China has built supercomputers with domestic hardware and software before, going entirely domestic is a new milestone for the country's tech industry.

Exact details on the Central Intelligent Computing Center are scarce. What's clear so far: The supercomputer is purportedly made with only Chinese parts; it can train AI models with trillions of parameters; and it uses liquid cooling. It's unclear exactly how much performance the supercomputer has. A five-exaflop figure is mentioned in ITHome's report, but to our eyes it seems that the publication was talking about the total computational power of China Telecom's supercomputers, and not just this one.

We probably can't expect official performance benchmarks any time soon either, as China is neglecting to submit its supercomputers to TOP500, the organization that tracks the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world. This caginess is apparently down to fears about getting too much attention and inviting even more U.S. sanctions

It's hard to guess what might be inside this supercomputer, given the lack of details. On the CPU side of things, it may use Zhaoxin's KaiSheng KH-40000 server CPUs, which are now available in domestically-made servers. There are also other candidates though, like Loongson's 32-core 3D5000 and Phytium's 64-core Feiteng Tengyun S2500. All three chips differ greatly in respect to architecture, with Zhaoxin using x86 like Intel and AMD. Loongson uses a derivative of MIPS, and Phytium runs Arm's architecture.

Similarly, there are plenty of options for Chinese-made GPUs, with possibilities ranging from Moore Threads, Loongson, and Biren. Of the three companies, Moore Threads is the most recent to launch a new GPU in the form of its MTT S4000, which is already planned to see use in the KUAE Intelligent Computing Center. Loongson's LG200 arrived about two weeks before the S4000, though its claimed performance would make for a very slow supercomputer. Biren's BR100 would be a heavyweight champion, but it's unclear if it ever returned to production anywhere after TSMC stopped making it due to U.S. sanctions.

Regardless of the actual hardware inside China Telecom's new supercomputer, that it is reportedly made from top to bottom with Chinese hardware is the most important part. Relying solely on Chinese technology likely means the Central Intelligent Computing Center is disadvantaged in some or many areas. But technological independence is a key goal for China, even if it means swapping out cutting-edge Western hardware for slower but natively-made components. U.S. sanctions won't have much of an impact if China can manage to do everything itself.

Matthew Connatser

Matthew Connatser is a freelancing writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes articles about CPUs, GPUs, SSDs, and computers in general.

  • bit_user
    It's hard to guess what might be inside this supercomputer, given the lack of details.
    Possibly this?
  • d0x360
    It's just an Asus ROG gaming laptop with holes cut in the side and the new ryzen apu. 🤗
  • Geef
    We all know they went and bought up all those massively old CPUs like 486 and Pentium 1st gen, things like that. They used the original Paperclip AI to combine them into a super server that also serves ice cold water!
  • RandomWan
    So 3.5-4 weeks and Skynet?