Technological innovation is something the US prides itself on, but the world’s leading superpower has been slacking a little on supercomputing. According to the latest edition of the Top500 world computers, a biannual ranking of supercomputers, China’s 10.65 million-core Sunway TaihuLight takes the number one slot.
What makes is even more impressive — and worrying for America’s processor dominance — is that the microprocessors inside are 100% Chinese.
In the past, China has relied heavily on US-made processors for its supercomputers. That’s why a little over a year ago, the US government banned Intel from exporting its powerful Xeon processors to a number of Chinese supercomputer makers. The ban was imposed because the government thought that China was using the Tianhe-2, a Chinese supercomputer built with Intel cores, to run nuclear simulations.
Rather than halting Chinese progress, it looks like the policy has had the opposite effect. Chinese research into microprocessors had already been underway, but the speed of China’s growth as a computing power appears to have increased. The development of the Sunway TaihuLight also marks the first time that the processing power of all Chinese supercomputers exceeds the processing power of all the US computers.
Contrary to some fearmongering, this doesn’t mean that Chinese cyber-ninjas are about to start hacking every server stateside with their new, all-powerful mainframes. But it is an important milestone along the way to the US losing its position as the technological superpower of the world.