Student exploitation revives controversy over Chinese supercomputers

The stunning performance of a mini-super computer built by Chinese students fascinates, but also raises many questions.

Fugaku, the star of the Japanese supercomputer, reigned supreme for two years – in this case eternity. It certainly dropped to second place by the incredible Frontier very recently (see our article), but it remains an engineering wonder that is very hard to beat in terms of raw energy. However, a group of Chinese students were able to do this on paper with a machine that was extremely less powerful.

According to the South China Morning Post, it all started with a project at Huazhong University of Science and Technology. In collaboration with technology giant Huawei, they have built their own mini-super computer in a way that is at hand.

They tested their machine on a single source short path (SSSP) problem. This is an algorithmic problem that requires a lot of raw energy to solve on a scale; So it is often used as a benchmark to compare the performance of supercomputers.

Weibo (via South China Morning Post)

A student project against a real Titan

At first glance, therefore, one might expect potentially encouraging results, but at best modestly. But against all odds, the results were absolutely stunning; In this SSSP problem, students are shown DepGraph supernodes Twice faster than the famous Fugakur!

It is important to specify This result does not mean that this machine is technically more powerful than Fugakur – Far from it. It is only over-optimized to swallow raw SSSP issues. But it’s still quite a feat.

And for good reason: this machine is far from the raw theoretical power of the Japanese giant. Fugaku actually has about 4 million cores (the GPU part is not counted) whereas the Deepgraph supernode is only… 128 !?

A number that looks like a typo ৷ It has many cores that match a (very) high-performance professional workstation rather than a truly elite supercomputer; How did this student project manage to stay on top of discipline in the post?

Jeremy Bejanzer – Unsplash

David is one of 128 hearts who defeated Goliath tactically

The answer lies in the problem that the students wanted to solve with this amazing proof of concept: interdependence of heart.

Pornographically, in a modern CPU (Central Processing Unit), there are several cores. They each represent a logical subunit; Everyone can count on their own. When we pool them, we end up with a machine that can do a considerable amount of computational work.

But what happens when you want to do complex calculations where each step depends on the previous one? In this case, the heart is interdependent and we end up with an obstacle; Some will have to wait for their colleagues to finish their work.

And according to the South China Morning Post, the students played on this interdependence. They explain that they have developed a Brand new architecture And a number of software solutions that allow them to optimize the performance of each coreReducing the chaos caused by addiction

Very little information on free access.

At first glance, this may seem like the first step in a process that could become revolutionary. But the concrete potential of this work is as vague as the technical details. In fact, researchers do not appear to have published a scientific paper in which they describe their processes in detail. And it’s a shame, because it would be very interesting to know if this method could be applied Supercomputers have millions of cores; Intuitively, this is at least very complicated.

But this does not exclude the possibility of this proof of concept; Nevertheless, its effects are many and very interesting. First, it is excellent evidence that modern computing possibly has immense leeway; Even without touching the hardware, there is probably room for multiplication by the functionality of the current system Optimize software components.

But the main question that arises from this gray area is the state of the Chinese HPC (high performance computing) sector.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory – YouTube screenshot

হিসাবে As for the rest of the Chinese HPC

Almost all organizations that have a supercomputer record its effectiveness on a platform called Top500. This platform, which was recently taken over by Frontier (see our article), allows external observers to easily compare them and follow the thread of technological progress.

China is also quite equipped at this level; With 173 supercomputers among the world’s 500 most powerful, it is the country with the largest number of machines in this ranking. On the other hand, some of the most significant are evident by their absence

China is clear because of its absence in this ranking. Several sources, for example, have claimed that Xi Jinping’s country will build the world’s first two “excel” supercomputers by early 2021. This is long before the arrival of the Frontier, which most recently officially became the title bearer. But surprisingly, no There is no trace of these machines in the Top500, Even if we expect them to be in the 1st or 2nd position based on this information. And these are just isolated examples.

If these machines are evident in their absence in the rankings, it is not that they do not work technically. It’s a long way off. If Chinese machines are missing from the rankings, it is very easy that the Chinese team prefers to keep their performance secret.

High-performance computing and artificial intelligence are among the main areas of work for the Chinese government. © Haluk Beyajab – Flickr

Supercomputers, a leading strategic resource

The reasons for this mystery remain unclear, but there is still some potential lead. The Chinese government has never hidden the fact that high efficiency computing, especially in the field of artificial intelligence, is one of its top priorities.

It’s actually a Incredibly powerful tool That’s what Xi Jinping wants to keep In the service of China’s global influence; So they can consider the technical features of these machines as strategic data which should be kept secret.

For the rest of the world, it is impossible to know what to expect. Is Chinese HPC on the verge of a 10-axis, ten times the standard established by Frontier, such as Data Center Dynamics recently claimed? This is information that unfortunately cannot be verified. What is certain, however, is that it is necessary Take Top500 with a grain of saltBecause real computer monsters can already be propagated wisely.

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