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China beating Intel/AMD in supercomputers and chips

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Must be their low labor costs, the reason always, always attributed by mainstream reporters.

Intel and AMD could help in the fight against state capitalism and global instability due to trade deficits.  But they do not.  Because they are transnationals with no more allegiance to the country that hatched them.

Indeed, Intel closed its high quality Colorado Springs plant in 2007, for example, in 2005 and moved it to China.  How much tech transfer was part of that deal? Genius.


China Builds World-Class Supercomputer Sans Intel, AMD


Last year, China unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer. But that was just the beginning …

China shook the international establishment last year when it unveiled the fastest supercomputer on the planet, besting its closest American rival by the number-crunching equivalent of a country mile. But last week, the Middle Kingdom’s newest supercomputer arrived with a much greater rumble — even though it’s unlikely to crack the world top 10.

Revealed last week at a conference in Jinan, China and profiled in The New York Times, the Sunway BlueLight MPP supercomputer doesn’t use microprocessors from Intel or AMD. It uses a chip designed by the Chinese themselves — and it’s not the Chinese microprocessor the supercomputing community was expecting. In other words, the Chinese are developing two microprocessors that could shift not only bragging rights in the worldwide supercomputer game, but the general market for server silicon.

“It shows that there’s a significant effort underway in China to build multicore processors that can be put into the world’s fastest computers,” Jack Dongarra, the University of Tennessee professor who oversees the annual list of the Top 500 supercomputers, tells Wired. “And you have to wonder what their strategy is in terms of pushing these chips outside of their borders.”


Before the Sunway was uncloaked, Dongarra was expecting China to reveal a computing cluster based on an eight-core chip its engineers were developing under the “Loongson” or “Godson” name. Instead, the Sunway uses a previously unknown chip dubbed the “ShenWei SW-3.” Harnessing 8,700 of these chips, the cluster can, in theory, handle more than 1,000 trillion calculations a second — aka a petaflop.

That will likely put the Sunway among the top 20 fastest supercomputers when Dongarra and crew unveil their official list next month. For the University of Tennessee computer scientist, this shows that China is gaining ground on the big American chip-makers faster than expected. “China hasn’t done much in the way of microprocessor development over the past 20 years,” he says. “But it won’t take them 20 years to catch up. It’s going to take them a very short time.”

Intel and AMD did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did the unnamed Chinese representative who emailed the Sunway’s benchmark numbers to Dongarra last week. Dr. David K. Kahaner, the president and founding director of theAsian Technology Information Program, tells us that the Chinese briefed him on the Sunway in April and that they claimed it would achieve 75% efficiency on the Linpack benchmark, which means its average performance would be about 75% percent of its peak one-petaflop speed. This is similar to what the Chinese claimed last week.

According to reports from Jinan, the ShenWei microprocessor was designed at a supercomputing institute in China and manufactured in Shanghai, and it uses a new instruction set — not the venerable x86 instruction set used by Intel and AMD. The chip runs at about 1GHz, which is well under the speed of the latest Intel and AMD chips, but a lower clock also means it consumes less power.

Last fall, a separate Chinese operation unveiled the Tianhe-1A, based on Intel’s Xeon processors, which was then the fastest supercomputing on earth. It was soon topped by a Japanese cluster known as the K Computer, and the Japanese will likely retain their crown when the list of the Top 500 supercomputers is officially revealed. But in many ways, the Sunway has already stolen its thunder.

In revealing the Sunway — which was apparently installed in Jinan in September — the Chinese also unveiled a list of the country’s top 100 supercomputers. Eighty-five still use Intel and fourteen used AMD, but the plan is to move to the lot towards homegrown hardware. The supercomputing game isn’t a huge part of Intel’s or AMD’s business, but there’s a certain amount of prestige wrapped up in these massive machines, and the same chips can be used in ordinary servers.

“Don’t think of this in terms of supercomputing,” says Dongarra. “There’s a low-end that where these chips can work. You can imagine these chips replacing all the Intel chips in the China.”

Photo: nVidia

3 Responses to “China beating Intel/AMD in supercomputers and chips”

  1. Bruce Bishop says:

    I have worked for a half dozen Fortune 500 manufacturing companies. The primary motivating factor was never “greed,” it was always “survival.”

    The first of those companies to “go China,” started to do so in 1985. The first Chinese products we saw were nearly identical to our products and the cost was one-third, delivered. If we hadn’t become the importer of the Chinese-made products, they would have set up other distribution channels, cutting us out completely.

    Within a few years, the plant where I had worked was closed. Only a warehouse remained open. The 1400 people I had worked with had been laid off and most were earning about half of what they had formerly earned. By this time, many other manufacturing plants were closing in favor of Chinese imports. The remaining jobs were in service and retail, which paid much less and which had far fewer benefits.

    Just for fun, I recently went exploring on a couple of the “Buy American” web sites. I was specifically looking for a toaster, as our old one is on its last legs. I found one — a simple 2-slice toaster, made in America . . . for $256. As you might imagine, Walmart has one that looks exactly like it (made in China) for under $20.

    Who are we kidding? We argue back and forth about labor cost vs. currency manipulation, but there are never any facts presented. I would challenge anyone with access to the data to explain that cost differential, incorporating both factors.

    We are being bombarded, from all directions, with smoke and malarky that is designed to confuse us and to give politicians an excuse to do nothing.

    I was outraged to learn that James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation “did a study,” and discovered that it was “computers and robotics,” not “trade,” that caused our manufacturing jobs to go away. More recently, the Boston Consulting Group announced that the wage differential between us and China is shrinking and that our manufacturing jobs will be back in 2 – 5 years.

    The only sensible solution I have seen is to impose “balanced trade,” on our importing companies. They would only be allowed to import as much stuff from China as China buys from us. You can Google “balanced trade,” for an explanation.

    Unfortunately, only Sarah Palin, who is not running for anything, has come out in favor of “balanced trade.” Buddy Roemer has hinted that he would favor some sort of trade reform, but, his web site doesn’t really say much about it. Balanced trade was first recommended by Warren Buffett back in 2003.

  2. Joe Brooks says:

    Bruce, here is a synopsis of a 30 minute speech, the link below has a more detailed 1.5 hour speech.

    My brother and I were fortunate enough to see him speak at CPA’s Dayton summit.

    He spoke like an American! He wants to see Americans get decent jobs and opportunities!

    He has studied the current and past history of US/world trade and economic policies and even mentioned the taboo topic of Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures. “Free trade” would be scrapped.

    A restoration of US manufacturing, science and technology capabilities was strongly emphasized. He knows we cannot thrive without this.

    Visa and illegal immigration issues were highlighted and an intelligent plan for correcting these schizophrenic Federal Government policies was outlined.

    The banking industry will be repaired and more localized.

    A reasoned and rational approach to solving the Social Security fund embezzlement that has gone on was proposed.

    Campaign finance reform was stressed, he wants to get the money out of elections and is leading by example, check out his campaign finance method.

    He will purge the ridiculous Oligarchal Federal Tax code of Corporate/Oligarchal Communism and limit the privatization [theft] of publicly purchased assets.

    And, he wants to end, endless war. I believe he is a genuine candidate, the likes we have not been allowed to see in 30 years. [No slight intended toward Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo, they tried.]

    This is your chance America, he’s got my money [already] and my vote.

    Long version, every American should see this.


  3. Joe Brooks says:

    Ooops, I am referring to Buddy Roemer in my previous post, Bruce.


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