back to article New Chinese exascale supercomputer runs 'brain-scale AI'

Back in October, reports surfaced that China had achieved exascale-level supercomputing capabilities on two separate machines, one of which is its Sunway "Oceanlite" system, which is built with entirely Chinese components, from CPU to network. While there have been few architectural details to date, a paper [PDF], published …

  1. b0llchit Silver badge
    Alert

    96000 nodes... That must result in an impressive electricity bill.

    With 37+ MegaCores and lets say 25W per core (including memory and fabric, etc.) it would make a 925 MW installation. Wow... almost a GigaWatt computer.

    No wonder they keep building power generation capacity. You need one per super computer. And all that for running a language model. A normal brain is about 25W too. They could just employ 37 million people to run the model and get better language response.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Early Days....

      The first attempts at automation weren't very energy efficient either.

      Research is invariably inefficient because we don't know the answers to the questions we're trying to solve and quite often we're not even sure of the questions that we need to ask. Once problems have been defined and solved then rationalized architectures can efficiently implement what's really needed. (That is, its obvious once you know what you're doing....)

      Then there's bragging rights. No small thing these days.

      Finally, as anyone who's had to use a 1970's minicomputer such as a DG Nova in a freezing cold laboratory knows these things make great space heaters. Computers used to have to be designed with heat flow in mind just to stop them from literally melting down. We still have the problem but because we've distributed the distribution among countless millions of machines we tend to ignore it.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Early Days....

        Yes, we can always improve.

        However, we are talking about at least 7 orders of magnitude you need to improve to be useful in daily operation. We may expect two..three orders of magnitude with technology, but we are approaching the manufacturing limits already. You need a utter and complete paradigm shift to get anywhere near the levels we would need.

    2. JassMan Silver badge
      Trollface

      @b0llchit

      I think you calculation of 25W /core is likely to be a bit over or else you seem to think they are using very old fab tech. The 3GHz 8 core (16thread) cpu in my PC only consumes 15W and contains an embedded nvidia GPU. Even the heavy duty version only consumes 4W per core. Mind you, I must admit that even 4W/core will result in an impressive energy bill. If they went for RISC, the power could be as low as 50mW/core for 3GHz so they would be in the low MW range.

      Still, they can now run it off a gas turbine powered generator using all that discounted gas they are getting from Russia.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: @b0llchit

        @JassMan

        Why do you think they did not go for RISC.

        1. JassMan Silver badge

          @Lars

          I didn't think they hadn't gone RISC. I was just pointing out that RISC is very power efficient compared to other architectures and that the original near gigawatt calculation was seriously OTT.

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: @Lars

            @JassMan

            Yes I see, but the thing is that RISC-V is an open source license they adopted many years ago.

            If super computing is of interest there is a lot of information on top500.org.

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: @b0llchit

        The SW26010 is a 260-core manycore processor designed by the National High Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center in Shanghai. It implements the Sunway architecture, a 64-bit reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture designed in China.

    3. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Mushroom

      96000 nodes... That must result in an impressive electricity bill.

      Who cares, when you have cheap Russian gas?

      Bargain price!

  2. Peshman

    So, American Trade wars work?

    The US started a trade war that seems to have given the Chinese the push they needed to become self sufficient. Trumpists must be so proud of their achievement.

    1. John Sager

      Re: So, American Trade wars work?

      I think the planning and execution cycle for this would have started well before DJT thought about being President. I expect advancing their own independent capabilities in many areas is a long term goal of the Chinese anyway.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: So, American Trade wars work?

        The question is, was DJT (and other populist leaders and campaigns, who couldn't possibly have won on rational debate and without the guerilla marketing provided by social media) part of the plan?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So, American Trade wars work?

      There's a lot of strands to pull apart in your oversimplified statement.

      There is overwhelming bipartisan support for large changes in China trade policy, and the Biden administration is fully on board with many, but not all, of the changes instituted under Trump.

      An example of the "not" is dumping the idea of banning Tik Tok, which was just political grandstanding.

      Even with bipartisian support, however, US absolute dependence on CCP imports for the basic necessities of keeping the economy running, and the threat that poses, is largely overlooked because the problem is too large to deal with, and there are too many vested interests opposed to solving it. Although there has been some movement under Biden to redevelop a chip foundry industry in the US - the long success of which is not yet known.

      Banning exports is far easier - politicians just need to make a law or impose a policy and enforce it on exporters. But exactly like you say, the short term impact and the long term consequences may diverge greatly.

      Whether any export policy is good or bad can only be properly evaluated by looking at the big picture and coordinating across multiple fronts - dependency on imports included, but also coordinating with other nations, etc. A distinction needs to be made between the visceral satisfaction of delivering a short term blow, and acting to ensure long term security.

  3. msobkow Silver badge

    So much for those who claim China never innovates, but only takes.

    Every culture and nation has their "bright sparks" that innovate and create; they're what give me hope for humanity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. I reckon if Putin & cronies had more interest in beating the US at technology, Russia - with plenty of native talent - would be investing their energy and resources in doing that rather than bombing Ukraine to smithereens.

      While the CCP under Xi is not a "nice" ruling organ, their support for and drive to innovate is a stabilizing influence giving that organ less motivation to start WWIII.2. (WWIII.1 having already started.)

  4. Simulacra75

    Can it play Crysis?

    1. msobkow Silver badge

      It can _write_ Crysis... :)

  5. JassMan Silver badge
    Trollface

    Whats the betting that they will use it for facial recognition on every surveillance simultaneously so that they know where every citizen is and what they are doing.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the actual brain power we get here?

    Are we talking nematode, cat, or evil supervillain?

  7. RLWatkins

    "Brain-scale AI"

    Remember when you see that phrase, it's time to go read something else.

    The hype never ends.

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