In October, a supercomputer performed 2.57 petaflops—that is, 2.57 quadrillion calculations per second—to seize the title of fastest computer in the world. But the Tianhe-1A was not housed in some lab in Silicon Valley or Japan; it was in the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin, at the National Supercomputing Center. Its builder: a state-owned firm called Dawning Information Industry.
Tianhe-1A was built with a helping hand from American technology; its processors are Nvidia's Tesla GPUs. However, Dawning is using that technology as a springboard. It's working on its own processors, the Loongson family, in the hopes of constructing an all-Chinese-made supercomputer in the near future.
Dawning's technology, at slower speeds, has already pushed the company's supercomputer market share past IBM's and HP's in China. "Our technology links up many hard drives to run in parallel," explains product manager Sha Chaoqun. Gartner analyst Uko Tian expects the company's market share to grow as Dawning attracts business "from the financial industries, manufacturing, design, and medicine," but she says the real sector to watch is defense—a key reason the Chinese government has bolstered companies like Dawning.
Photograph by: Gabriela Hasbun