Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) got another vote of confidence in the power of its 64-bit Opteron processor this week when China's Dawning Information Industry took the wraps off an Opteron-based supercomputer, capable of handling more than 10 trillion floating operations per second (TFLOPS).
Alongside the Red Storm supercomputer being built by Cray for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Sandia National Laboratories, Dawning's 4000A supercomputer is one of the largest and most powerful Opteron-based supercomputers to be announced thus far.
It packs more than 2,000 Opteron processors, with a total of 2TB of RAM and 30TB of hard-disk space. With a maximum performance level of 10 TFLOPS, the Dawning 4000A easily ranks among the 100 most powerful computers in the world. It can run either Linux or Microsoft's Windows operating system, according Li Yongming, a spokesman for Dawning.
While specifications for the system have been made public, the buyer has yet to be revealed. "We haven't announced the name of the buyer so it's not appropriate to talk about the price we have given them," Li said. "We'll announce these details when the time is appropriate."
Based in Beijing, Dawning is relatively unknown outside of China, but the company is considered one of the country's most advanced manufacturers of high-end servers. Like its better known sibling, Legend Group, Dawning was spun off from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and became an independent company in 1995.
The company wasted little time making its mark. In 1997, Dawning unveiled the first commercially available server from a Chinese company with parallel processing capabilities, the Dawning 1000 Plus.
Based on IBM's AIX operating system, the eight-way version of the Dawning 1000 Plus had eight 200MHz Power PC processors, each with 256MB of RAM and a 2GB hard-disk drive, and could offer sustained performance levels above 1.5 GFLOPS (billion floating operations per second). A 16-way version of the Dawning 1000 Plus was also manufactured, with at least one system sold outside China, to Cameroon.
Despite showing some impressive technological advances early on, however, Dawning has retained a low profile in China's server market.
"It's a very niche player. They're totally government focused," said Avneesh Saxena, vice president of computing systems at IDC Asia-Pacific. "They typically have high-end boxes."
In the last several years, Dawning has continued its push into high-end computing, rolling out a 3-TFLOPS supercomputer, the Dawning 4000L, in March. A 4.2-TFLOPs version of the machine was announced in June.
Dawning isn't the only Chinese company that has made a push into supercomputers. A system similar in performance to the Dawning 4000A was developed by Legend last year. The Deepcomp 1800 is based on 526 Intel. Xeon processors and offers a maximum performance of 10 TFLOPS. In use at the Academy of Mathematics and System Sciences at CAS, Deepcomp 1800 has 272GB of RAM and 6TB of hard disk space.
Deepcomp 1800 is currently ranked No. 51 in a list of the top 500 computers maintained by the U.S. National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, the University of Tennessee and the University of Mannheim, in Germany.