27 January 2010

Enter the (Big) Dragon

As part of my continuing service to report on the fascinating developments in the Chinese chip sector, I pass on the following:

It's official: China's next supercomputer, the petascale Dawning 6000, will be constructed exclusively with home-grown microprocessors. Weiwu Hu, chief architect of the Loongson (also known as "Godson") family of CPUs at the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT), a division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also confirms that the supercomputer will run Linux. This is a sharp departure from China's last supercomputer, the Dawning 5000a, which debuted at number 11 on the list of the world's fastest supercomputers in 2008, and was built with AMD chips and ran Windows HPC Server.

It won't come as a surprise to readers of this blog that China's new supercomputer will be running Linux - over 80% of the world's big machines do. What's fascinating is that this is being built out of that home-grown Loongson chip - the one that Windows doesn't run on. As the same article explains:

The arrival of Dawning 6000 will be an important landmark for the Loongson processor family, which to date has been used only in inexpensive, low-power netbooks and nettop PCs. When the Dawning 5000a was initially announced, it too was meant to be built with Loongson processors, but the Dawning Information Industry Company, which built the computer, eventually went with AMD chips, citing a lack of support for Windows, and the ICT's failure to deliver a sufficiently powerful chip in time.

That means that as China builds more and more of these, and pushes the technology further and further, it will be Linux that benefits, not Windows, and Linux that spreads...

China + Loonson + Linux: this is one to watch...

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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

做得好 p

9600 said...

The same chip as in the netbook RMS uses - the Lemote Yeeloong (which goes as far as using open source BIOS etc).

I'll be very tempted myself if someone brings out a decent netbook/laptop with the upcoming third generation Loongson, which promises to be multi-core and with hardware-assisted x86 virtualisation.

As an aside, funny how this is from a Chinese organisation called ICT. In the days of early British computing ICT was International Computers and Tabulators, which was later merged with other companies to form the ill-fated ICL.

glyn moody said...

glyn moody said...

@9600: yes, interesting, isn't it? I remember ICL (but not ICT) - recall its "One Per Desktop" disaster...?

Tech Support said...

Oh that's great. I am also looking forward for it.

guy said...

Presumably Windows could be ported to this chip --- NT used to run on architectures other than intel (alpha, mips).

If MS saw this platform as significant or threatening I'm sure they would throw money at porting to it, at least to the point of getting something that was of adeqate quality. Depressing though it is, users who only know windows have been shown to put up with rotten software quality rather than switch, and given the level of legally iffy copies of Windows in china it seems the chinese are no exception.

PS. Is the comment system here losing stuff? I've posted a couple that seem to have disappeared, and haven't seen comments from a few of the 'regulars' for a while?

glyn moody said...

@guy: of course, they could port - but they'd be behind by some time. Also, the Chinese have good reasons not to go the Windows route - notably, security.

comments going missing? always possible, but I've not heard from anyone else...

guy said...

The thing is that we've seen before MS use its dominant position to catch up by simply being 'good enough'. Even if a competing product is insanely good MS will still win out unless its own offering is dangerously poor (Firefox vs IE). That's the difference between strong product and a strong brand. Unfortunately.

Maybe your security comment is a key here.

re: comments, maybe I've just been fumbling my posts :-). OTOH, if you've not heard from anyone else...

glyn moody said...

@guy: I meant I'd not had any other complaints about dropped comments...