TECH

China Will Build The World's First Exascale Supercomputer

It'll make the supercomputer look like an abacus...

19/01/2017 12:43

China has revealed that it plans to build a computer so powerful that it will be able to perform 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations every second.

The Xinhua news agency reports that the Chinese government plans to build the world’s first exascale supercomputer, claiming that it will be a staggering 200 times more powerful than its first supercomputer Tianhe-1.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

So what do any of these words actually mean? Well current supercomputers are measured in FLOPS (floating point operations per second). A FLOP determines the number of calculations that it can make per second.

In simple numbers then, when it’s up and running the hope is that as the world’s first exascale supercomputer it will be able to make a quintillion (billion billion) calculations every single second.

Compare that to the world’s fastest supercomputer (which also happens to be owned by China) Sunway TaihuLight can perform a mere 93 trillion calculations per second.

Want an even simpler comparison? You would need over 50,000 PS4s all lined up together just to achieve the same computing power of today’s most-powerful supercomputer.

BRYAN R. SMITH via Getty Images
You would need over 50,000 PS4 Consoles to produce the same computing power as today's most powerful supercomputer.

Exascale supercomputers then are in a whole new league.

China hopes to unveil a prototype at the end of this year with Zhang Ting, application engineer with the Tianjin-based National Supercomputer Center confirming that a “complete computing system of the exascale supercomputer and its applications can only be expected in 2020.”

So why build a computer this powerful? Well one interesting thing to note is that supercomputers are not related to artificially intelligent ones. While they work very closely together the conventional supercomputer is designed for less ‘trendy’ tasks.

For starters they’re absolutely brilliant at crunching vast sums of data, whether that’s weather data or medical information.

The Met Office for example uses its own £97 million supercomputer to help it predict the weather.

So when it comes to doing sums with numbers so massive that frankly the human brain will struggle to comprehend them, supercomputers are the tool of choice.

Its believed that when operational, China will allow customers to use the computer to make major breakthroughs in biological medicine, cloud computing and even manufacturing.

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