Tianhe-2 has been designated as the fastest computer in the World. Though 500 computers have been ranked the fastest in the world, yet Tianhe-2 ranks number one with respect to its efficiency and power. Tianhe-2, which means “Milky Way”, was developed by 1,300 scientists and engineers of China National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) together with a Chinese IT firm  named Inspur. This project was initiated by the Government of Guangdong province of China alongwith the Government of Guangzhou city. Building up of this astoundingly fast computer would not have been possible without the sponsorship of 863 High Technology Program. Tianhe-1 was one of the supercomputer invented by China but Tianhe-2 ranked top in regards to its performance. U.S Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has formulated a supercomputer named Titan whose performance was remarkable. Titan used to achieve at least 17.59 quadrillion floating point operations or petaflops in one second. But Tianhe-2 exceeded this amount and achieved 33.86 petaflops in one second. So Tianhe-2 beat Titan by 2-1 and wins the race by achieving the title of the fastest computer in World which it pertains till date. The commercially available supercomputer, Apple Mac Pro, achieved seven trillion FLOPS which could be considered to be the top most. But Tianhe-2 again beat it by providing 4,000 times better performance than Apple’s computer. Hence Tianhe-2 has ranked the top for four consecutive times. Tianhe-2 is placed in the National University of Defense Technology.

              Tianhe-2 in China

                                                       Fig: Tianhe-2 in China


  • Here are the specifications of this massive computer of China.
  • Tianhe-2 is made up of 32,000 Intel Xeon E5-2692 12C with 2.200 GHz processor and 48,000 Xeon Phi31S1P.
  • Kylin Linux operating system, specially designed by China’s National University of Defense Technology based on Simple Linux Utility for Resource Management (SLURM), runs this supercomputer.
  • Power consumption is around 17.6 MW and 24 MW for cooling.
  • Complete memory storage capacity ranges to 1,375 TiB which include 1,000 TiB for CPU and 375 TiB for coprocessor.
  • It provides a storage capacity of 12.4 PB.
  • Speed as we have seen is 33.86 petaflops.

   Tianhe-2 compute node diagram

                                                                                              Fig: Tianhe-2 computer node diagram


Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi together formulated the world’s largest set-up in the form of Tianhe-2. They used sixteen thousand computer nodes which included 3 Xeon Phi coprocessor chips and 2 Intel Ivy Bridge Xeon processors and finally comprises of 3,120,000 cores. Each node uses eighty eight gigabytes of memory which is eventually distributed into 64 gigabytes used by two Ivy Bridge Processor and 24 gigabytes used by three Xeon Phi processor.  

Though Tianhe-2 provided a performance of 33.86 petaflops, yet its theoretical peak attainment reaches to approximately fifty four  petaflops when the system is finally assembled. If this peak performance is reached then Tianhe-2 would consume a power supply of 17.6 MW and after including the power supply required for cooling it would draw around 24 MW.

A front-end system has been designed by SPARC and developed by NUDT which consisted of 4096 Galaxy FT-1500 CPUs. Each of the FT-1500 CPUs comprises of 16 cores and frequency of 1.8 GHz giving performance of 144 gigaflops by consuming energy of only 65 watts. TH Express-2 inter-connection network has been developed by NUDT. It functions with the help of a fat-tree topology consisting of 13 switches each having 576 ports.

                              Inside Tianhe-2 Super Computer

                                             Fig:Inside Tianhe-2 super computer

Purpose for developing this extraordinary superfast computer:

National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) has designed such a massive computer keeping in mind to use it for Government security purpose. This computer is considered as the fastest and so it will also be used for simulation and analysis of data at a larger scale. Each day an antineutrino detector of the reactor at various nuclear plants generate immense numbers of raw data which needs to be analyzed and processed as they could provide huge evidences for changing the various concepts in modern physics. So a massive computer with advance processors can only serve the purpose and generate the required data. In this field Tianhe-2 will be the most efficient one. Also transferring data from one computer unit to another at the highest speed level for completing the task at less time and low cost is incorporated by this superfast Tianhe-2 machine. However, Tianhe-2 is expected to be used for controlling traffic signals, pre-detection of earthquake, designing new cars with latest technologies, developing new drugs in the field of medicine, creating special effects in movies and lot more.


Does Supercomputers like Tianhe-2 really serve all purposes?

Though supercomputers like Tianhe-2 provide super-speed and high efficiency performance, yet the question is, whether a supercomputer is necessary for advancement in the field of technology. China claims that Tianhe-2 will be used to improve its car industry especially the Guangzhou Automobile Group. But China did not have any computational or technological backdrop in the field of car industry. Rather they had lack of craftsmen skills and ideas. Various automobile industries in the world are creating cars with latest technologies. But for developing such technologies a supercomputer is not required. The computing power required for developing car technology can be undoubtedly provided by commercial computers designed for industrial use. In fact the cost of setting such commercial computers would be a small fraction in comparison to the cost of setting up Tianhe-2 which is about 2.4 billion Yuan or US$390 million. Smaller computers with advanced specialized systems provide enough support in any manufacturing unit.

In case of determining the climate changes, a system requires simulation of atmospheric system in a global basis. This phenomenon is followed by handling massive amount of data which is out of the reach of supercomputers like Tianhe-2. Also supercomputers initiate a larger intake of power supply, thereby increasing the maintenance cost.

There are immense numbers of computing units which are equipped with the most advanced version of supercomputers. But these systems are of no use in present day. Setting up of these massive structures require huge monetary back-up. Sincerely, with the advent of technology these massive structures become obsolete within the next five years.

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