Having endeavoured to become a major technological power and reduce its dependence on the West, China has built the second largest collection of supercomputers after the U.S., including the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-2.
But it seems a lot of these massive machines, usually made with large government investment, lie idle after they are made, or are even abandoned midway, due to fundamental defects in China’s traditional bureaucratic management system.
Less than 20% of China’s supercomputers have actually been used for scientific research, while outside of government agencies and academia, 6 of the 11 supercomputers used by the information-technology sector serve online gaming companies, the report said.
In fact, even one of China’s most expensive supercomputing projects is going to waste. The Tianhe-1 — “Tianhe meaning “Milky Way” in Chinese — was the world’s fastest supercomputer when it was built in 2009, but since last year it had since been “sealed up” and lies idle, according to another recent report by the state-run Modern Express newspaper.
“The ceiling of the equipment room has already gone mouldy, and the air conditioner’s condenser is leaking water,” the report said, adding that both gates of the supercomputer center and the host-computer building, located in the central China city of Changsha, had been sealed up.
The Chinese government had invested 860 million yuan ($138 million) in building the Changsha National Supercomputer Center which hosts the Tianhe-1, but the report suggested that the supercomputer has sat unused since 2013 due to bureaucracy.
The Hunan provincial government built the Tianhe-1 and was expected to hand it over to Hunan University, but a disagreement between the two parties delayed the transfer.
“We couldn’t hand over the project as there was no ‘clear’ organisation to receive this project at that time. Then the builder took over the basic maintenance of the supercomputer,” an official from the Hunan provincial government told the newspaper without elaborating on the nature of disagreement.
The Hunan government has since replied to the latest request from Hunan University and said they would “speed up the paperwork” and try to complete the handover later this month or early in August, the report said.
In the meantime, China continues to churn out supercomputers, increasing its global share of the giant electronic brains to 15% — or 76 of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers — to rank second among all nations.
By comparison, the U.S. is still the leader, with 233 out of the top 500, but its share of the global total has dipped 6 percentage points since November 2013.
And China also boasts the world’s most powerful computer, the Tianhe-2, rated at 33.86 petaflops (quadrillions of calculations per second), according to latest statistics released by the International Supercomputing Conference in June.
Whether it will get more use than its predecessor, however, remains to be seen.Source: Market Watch – China’s bevy of supercomputers goes unused
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