During the press briefing at SC’16, TOP500 luminaries like Jack Dongarra, Horst Simon, Wu Feng, Martin Weuer, and Erich Strohmaier responded to questioning by the Press. The panel was gracious enough to respond to questions from TechEnablement about the state of the Chinese HPC capability along with observations about the state of the Chinese semiconductor, network, and computer technology sectors.
Succinctly, the last year has shown big changes in Chinese computing and technology as they now match or exceed US capabilities according to some key metrics:
- China has caught up with the US with both countries having 171 systems in the TOP500.
- China has the top two (meaning world’s fastest) TOP500 supercomputers, meaning fastest in the world. Cumulative performance of these two machines exceeds that of the systems in the current DOE supercomputer stable.
- TechEnablement predicts China will take the top three positions in the near future.
- The Sunway TaihuLight uses Chinese processor, networking, and other technology.
- An air-cooled version of Sunway TaihuLight was to be shown at SC16, but the Chinese schedule slipped.
- Horst Simon, Deputy Director at LBNL, “HPC is the tip of the iceberg”.
- Rather than following a trickle down pathway, HPC in China originates in businesses that is pushed up to surface in machines that compete in the TOP500.
- Simon noted, “They seem to be following a well thought out plan to create an internal semiconductor/technology supply chain”. This includes networking and other areas as well as semiconductors and computation.
- When asked by Farber (TechEnablement), Simon noted that he would not be surprised if there will be an effort by China to export their technology to the global market.
- Eric Strohmaier (LBNL senior scientist) observed that “HPC is not a theoretical science”. It cannot just be taught in the classroom. HPC is very much a field requiring hands on experience.
- The HPC panel noted that HPC is core to technology competitiveness with concerns already expressed in the aerospace and automotive fields.
China as now an experienced product producer and global exporter. In addition to HPC and commercial computing, we see the opportunity for China to develop and export low-cost computers utilizing only Chinese technology. However, there may be a vetting process as their technology matures. Examples include early issues with cheap Chinese produced batteries. The expectation is that problems will quickly be resolved. In speaking with the panel, there did not seem to be any disagreement that Chinese technology can move into off-shore data centers and the global consumer market should the US implement protectionist tariffs.