U.S. manufacturers can no longer claim supremacy in the market for supercomputers.

The Dawning 5000A can perform more than 160 trillion operations per second.

During a recent meeting of the ASSEMBLY staff, a lively debate was sparked by the question: “What is it that U.S. manufacturers still do better than companies anywhere else in the world?” One of our consensus answers: high-end mainframe computers.

Well, to steal a line from college football analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!” It looks like U.S. stalwarts like IBM, Dell and Sun now have some formidable competition. On Sept. 16, a supercomputer that can perform 160 trillion operations per second rolled off the assembly line at Dawning Information Industry Co. Ltd. in Tianjin.

The Shuguang, or Dawning, 5000A cost more than 200 million yuan ($29.3 million), and more than 500 scientists were involved in the R&D effort. With an innovative energy-saving design, the Dawning 5000A consumes 700 kilowatts per hour, which is significantly less than most supercomputers.

Covering a floor space of 75 square meters, the computer will be installed at the Shanghai Supercomputer Center, where it will be applied to civilian applications, such as genome mapping, earthquake appraisal, precise weather forecasting, mining surveys and financial analysis. For example, it can process a 36-hour weather forecast for Beijing in 3 minutes.

The machine is the fastest supercomputer in China, and it’s the 7th most powerful supercomputer in the world. The world’s No. 1 system, Roadrunner, was built by IBM for Los Alamos National Laboratory. That computer can run 1 quadrillion computing operations per second, or six times faster than the Dawning 5000A. (For a list of the Top 500 supercomputers, click here.)

Dawning Information Industry Co. was founded in June 1995 by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Information Industry, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The company is no stranger go the top 10 list of supercomputing. In June 2004, the company first cracked the top 10 with the Dawning 4000, which could perform 11 trillion operations per second. To read more about the Dawning 5000A, click here.
U.S. manufacturers take heed: We cannot afford to rest on our laurels, assuming that the rest of the world will be unable to catch up with us, even when it comes to producing the world's most technologically sophisticated products. We must continue to innovate!