The National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) has built China’s fastest supercomputer, which is up there with the world’s best.
It is called "Tianhe", meaning Milky Way, and is currenty in Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan Province, although it will be moved later.
How fast it it? This is where we run into problems. The human mind simply cannot deal with the figures involved.
This supercomputer is theoretically able to do more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second which is one petaflop at peak speed.
In computing, FLOPS (or flops or flop/s) is an acronym meaning FLoating point Operations Per Second. A petaflop is a a thousand trillion floating point operations per second, which is something that the human brain cannot get a handle on.
Another way of looking at it is a single-day task for Tianhe might take a mainstream dual-core personal computer 160 years to complete, working non-stop — if it can last that long. Which is most unlikely.
This is not a laptop computer. It weighs in at 155-ton, with 103 refrigerator-like cabinets lined up on an area of about 1,000 square meters. Not your basic desktop computer.
The computer will be used to process seismic data for oil exploration, conduct bio-medical computing and help design aerospace vehicles. All of which need immense computing power.
The northern port city of Tianjin jointly financed Tianhe, which cost at least RMB600 million yuan ($88.24 million).
This is probably the fourth-fastest computer in the world although we won’t know that officially for a while.
China View reports that the Chinese Mainland has 20 high-performance computers, with CPUs all supplied by foreign manufacturers. China’s Dawning Information Industry Company is attempting to build its own supercomputer that overcomes the petaflop barrier by 2010 but already with the Tianhe we have a major breakthrough in supercomputers.