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US fears China may have ten exascale systems by 2025

China refuses to share benchmarks, US sharpens focus on developing optimized software


The US is racing to catch up with China in supercomputing performance amid fears that the country may widen its lead in exascale computers over the next decade, according to reports.

The Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is expected to be the first exascale system in the US once it is fully operational, but China already has two exascale systems up and running since last year, as reported on our sister site The Next Platform.

This lead may widen as the US has three exascale systems in the pipeline, while China aims to have up to 10 operational systems by 2025, says a report in the Financial times.

What is at stake here is not just national pride, because supercomputers provide the raw calculating power required for simulation of nuclear physics used for atomic weapons, but also for discovery of new materials and to drive engineering breakthroughs.

According to the FT, at this rate China will beat the US to the next big breakthrough by fielding a larger number of exascale machines that will put it in a position to "seize the high ground of computing for years to come."

Exascale systems are supercomputers capable of operating at one exaFLOPS or greater, which means being able to calculate 1018 floating point operations per second.

The US Department of Energy has been running its Exascale Computing Project for several years now, but it has been subject to delays. The first planned exascale system was to be called Aurora based on Intel's now defunct Xeon Phi processors. This has since been resurrected and will instead be built around the Sapphire Rapids chips.

The Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge is now the US front-runner. Based on a custom version of AMD's Epyc CPUs and Instinct GPUs, this was installed towards the end of last year and is expected to become operational in the second half of this year.

However, US fears about being left behind by China may be exaggerated. The FT quotes Dr David Kahaner, founder of analyst outfit the Asian Technology Information Program (ATIP), as saying that half of the $3.2 billion the US Department of Energy has so far plowed into the exascale project has been spent on development of software to take advantage of exascale architectures, meaning that the US may have better optimized capabilities here.

Meanwhile, doubts have been expressed about China's two exascale systems as the Middle Kingdom has declined to make public any standard benchmark figures that would demonstrate their true performance level, as discussed by The Next Platform.

Steve Conway, senior advisor at HPC analyst outfit Hyperion Research, also pointed out that getting a computer to run at some notional benchmark speed is different from doing real-world work with it.

"You can build a supercomputer that can run tests, but if it can run actual applications at that speed, that's a different matter," he told us.

Conway said that in some respects, China is level with the US, EU, Japan, and UK in some areas of supercomputing, but noted that they do not have any domestic chip fabrication facilities more advanced than 14nm, while rivals are at 7nm and 5nm.

"But it is still very impressive progress they have made in such a short time," he added.

The two systems, the Sunway Exascale system at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi and the Tianhe-3 at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) in Hunan province, are both based on homegrown technology, and are not relying on processors from the US or elsewhere.

In the FT report, Kahaner calls for greater collaboration between China and the US, saying that the US should consider loosening its sanctions against China's leading national supercomputing center at Wuxi in the hope of getting a better look at China's exascale system, a move that seems unlikely given the level of mistrust between the two nations. ®

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Atos, UK government reach settlement on $1 billion Met Office supercomputer dispute

It is sure a lot of money to be able to say confidently: 'It's going to rain'

Exclusive A court case which would have seen Atos take on the UK government over a £854 million (c $1 billion) supercomputer contract for the Meteorological Office has ended before it began.

The case, Atos Services UK Ltd v Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy and The Meteorological Office, concerns an agreement last year between the Met Office and Microsoft to provision a new supercomputer to "take weather and climate forecasting to the next level."

The system is intended to be the world's most advanced weather and climate system, and was expected to be twice as powerful as any other supercomputer in the UK when it becomes operational in the summer.

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Lenovo, Barcelona Supercomputing Center sign joint research deal

Collab to 'generate significant returns' for Europe in science, tech, economy

Lenovo has inked an agreement with Spain's Barcelona Supercomputing Center for research and development work in various areas of supercomputer technology.

The move will see Lenovo invest $7 million over three years into priority sectors in high-performance computing (HPC) for Spain and the EU.

The agreement was signed this week at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center-National Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS), and will see Lenovo and the BSC-CNS try to advance the use of supercomputers in precision medicine, the design and development of open-source European chips, and developing more sustainable supercomputers and datacenters.

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Europe's most powerful supercomputer is an all-AMD beast

First of Europe's pre-exascale systems inaugurated, hits top 3 even without GPU partition fully installed

HPE has scored another supercomputing win with the inauguration of the LUMI system at the IT Center for Science, Finland, which as of this month is ranked as Europe's most powerful supercomputer.

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Beijing probes security at academic journal database

It's easy to see why – the question is, why now?

China's internet regulator has launched an investigation into the security regime protecting academic journal database China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), citing national security concerns.

In its announcement of the investigation, the China Cyberspace Administration (CAC) said:

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Xi Jinping himself weighs in on how Big Tech should deploy FinTech

Beijing also outlines its GovTech vision and gets very excited about data

China's government has outlined its vision for digital services, expected behavior standards at China's big tech companies, and how China will put data to work everywhere – with president Xi Jinping putting his imprimatur to some of the policies.

Xi's remarks were made in his role as director of China’s Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission, which met earlier this week. The subsequent communiqué states that at the meeting Xi called for "financial technology platform enterprises to return to their core business" and "support platform enterprises in playing a bigger role in serving the real economy and smoothing positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows."

The remarks outline an attempt to balance Big Tech's desire to create disruptive financial products that challenge monopolies, against efforts to ensure that only licensed and regulated entities offer financial services.

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China 'must seize TSMC' if the US were to impose sanctions

So says Chinese economist, but it wouldn't achieve much if Taiwan destroyed its fabs first

China should seize Taiwan to gain control of TSMC if the United States and its allies impose sanctions against the Middle Kingdom like those now in place against Russia, according to a prominent Chinese economist.

The move follows the suggestion last year out of the US that Taiwan should be prepared to destroy its semiconductor factories if China were to invade.

This latest development comes in a speech by Chen Wenling, chief economist for the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, delivered at the China-US Forum hosted by the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China at the end of May. The text of the speech was posted to the Guancha (Observer) online news site.

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Always read the comments: Beijing requires oversight of all reader-generated chat

'Editing and review' teams will be required to read everything and report dissent

The Cyberspace Administration of China has announced a policy requiring all comments made to websites to be approved before publication.

Outlined in a document published last Friday and titled "Provisions on the Administration of Internet Thread Commenting Services", the policy is aimed at making China's internet safer, and better represent citizens' interests. The Administration believes this can only happen if comments are reviewed so that only posts that promote socialist values and do not stir dissent make it online.

To stop the nasties being published, the policy outlines requirements for publishers to hire "a review and editing team suitable for the scale of services".

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Chinese startup hires chip godfather and TSMC vet to break into DRAM biz

They're putting a crew together, and Beijing's tossed in $750m to get things started

A Chinese state-backed startup has hired legendary Japanese chip exec Yukio Sakamoto as part of a strategy to launch a local DRAM industry.

Chinese press last week reported that Sakamoto has joined an outfit named SwaySure, also known as Shenzhen Sheng Weixu Technology Company or Sheng Weixu for brevity.

Sakamoto's last gig was as senior vice president of Chinese company Tsinghua Unigroup, where he was hired to build up a 100-employee team in Japan with the aim of making DRAM products in Chongqing, China. That effort reportedly faced challenges along the way – some related to US sanctions, others from recruitment.

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ZTE intros 'cloud laptop' that draws just five watts of power

The catch: It hooks up to desktop-as-a-service and runs Android – so while it looks like a laptop ...

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has announced what it claims is the first "cloud laptop" – an Android-powered device that the consumes just five watts and links to its cloud desktop-as-a-service.

Announced this week at the partially state-owned company's 2022 Cloud Network Ecosystem Summit, the machine – model W600D – measures 325mm × 215mm × 14 mm, weighs 1.1kg and includes a 14-inch HD display, full-size keyboard, HD camera, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. An unspecified eight-core processors drives it, and a 40.42 watt-hour battery is claimed to last for eight hours.

It seems the primary purpose of this thing is to access a cloud-hosted remote desktop in which you do all or most of your work. ZTE claimed its home-grown RAP protocol ensures these remote desktops will be usable even on connections of a mere 128Kbit/sec, or with latency of 300ms and packet loss of six percent. That's quite a brag.

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Proposed Innovation Act amendment would block US investment in China

We're just astounded to see bipartisan efforts in Congress in this day and age

A draft US law that would, for one thing, subsidize the US semiconductor industry, has gained an amendment that would turn the screws on American investments in foreign countries.

The proposed update states that semiconductors, large-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals, rare-earth elements biotech, AI, quantum computing, hypersonics, fintech and autonomous technologies are all included as sectors in which foreign investment would be limited, specifically in "countries of concern," or those considered foreign adversaries, like China. The amendment also would restrict construction investments and joint ventures that would involve sharing of IP and monetary rewards.

US entities that have invested in a sector or country covered under the amendment would be required to notify the federal government, and the proposal also includes authorization for the executive branch to form an interagency panel responsible for reviewing and blocking foreign investments on national security grounds, the Wall Street Journal said of the amendment.

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Intel delivers first discrete Arc desktop GPUs ... in China

Why not just ship it in Narnia and call it a win?

Updated Intel has said its first discrete Arc desktop GPUs will, as planned, go on sale this month. But only in China.

The x86 giant's foray into discrete graphics processors has been difficult. Intel has baked 2D and 3D acceleration into its chipsets for years but watched as AMD and Nvidia swept the market with more powerful discrete GPU cards.

Intel announced it would offer discrete GPUs of its own in 2018 and promised shipments would start in 2020. But it was not until 2021 that Intel launched the Arc brand for its GPU efforts and promised discrete graphics silicon for desktops and laptops would appear in Q1 2022.

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Germany to host Europe's first exascale supercomputer

Jupiter added to HPC solar system

Germany will be the host of the first publicly known European exascale supercomputer, along with four other EU sites getting smaller but still powerful systems, the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) announced this week.

Germany will be the home of Jupiter, the "Joint Undertaking Pioneer for Innovative and Transformative Exascale Research." It should be switched on next year in a specially designed building on the campus of the Forschungszentrum Jülich research centre and operated by the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC), alongside the existing Juwels and Jureca supercomputers.

The four mid-range systems are: Daedalus, hosted by the National Infrastructures for Research and Technology in Greece; Levente at the Governmental Agency for IT Development in Hungary; Caspir at the National University of Ireland Galway in Ireland; and EHPCPL at the Academic Computer Centre CYFRONET in Poland.

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