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China suddenly has way more of the world’s most powerful computers than the US (qz.com)
48 points by fspeech 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

China's increase of 42 systems on Top500 is largely attributable to a single company. Chinese "internet company A" (as labelled by Top500 https://www.top500.org/site/50596) is presumably Alibaba, judging from its residence city of Hangzhou. It alone counts for 35 new machines on the list since June! (Click on the history tab to see the number for yourself.) I wonder if they are part of Alibaba's cloud services or for internal uses. Either way presumably Alibaba sees commercial value in owning them.

It’s also rather misleading since the majority of computing resources in the US are in “cloud” data centers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, etc.) and they never bother to take the time to run Linpack on their clusters because making $$ is more important. I would wager Google’s compute cells alone would constitute a few dozen slots in the top 100.

On closer inspection I have to say that I am a bit confused by these rankings. It appears that Inspur (a Chinese HPC company listed as the vendor for Alibaba's systems) lists its product as rack scale servers. By that standard what is to keep any data center operator from claiming a top spot on the list? Is it because Inspur systems can be configured to run Linpack benchmark as clusters? Alibaba's published use case http://www.inspursystems.com/case-studies/alibaba/ does not seem particularly floating point intensive, so the distinction seems somewhat artificial.

Yes, it would be interesting to learn what are they used for.

Because China doesn't believe in God but in Science. In the US we rather subsidize churches to the tune of $70B a year than to invest in computing infrastructure.

Intel, AMD, Nvidia are American companies, I certainly do not see what believing God has to do with Chinese computing. Do you know that Issac Newton spent a third of his time trying to decipher "secrets" and prophecies of bible?

God or Science is a false choice, its usually propagated by people who know price of everything and value of nothing!

Hilarious shoe-horning in of your personal gripe. When was the vote to decide between computing funding and religious stuff?

Well, you also have Kathleen Hartnett White as the new head of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality who majored in religion and is global warming denier.

And many other.

I fail to see what that has to do with supercomputing funding/underfunding due to religious stuff (which I'm guessing is tax breaks).

If the $70B werent used for the church it would be used for other things, including supercomputing. His statement has some weight.

> including supercomputing

No, not true at all.

> His statement has some weight.

Only in so far as you could make the argument about any of the other spendings of the US government and shoe-horn it in.

Churches provide services to communities far exceeding 70 billion. Trying to judge churches on what some fringe groups and politicians do is short-sighted.

We're talking about the United States so that's at least a third of the electorate, one that has an over sized influence on politics due to a combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression. These aren't some "fringe groups and politicians" but the prevailing religious ideology of the party in power across all three branches of governments.

The American protestant churches are to Christianity what the Society of Saint Pius X is to the Roman Catholic Church and it's a big enough group of people that it can stand judgement on its own.

As for the services churches provide - the whole point of taxes is pooling capital that the government can use to more efficiently provide far better services to its constituents than any non-governmental organization can. If the churches were actually capable of providing those services beyond largely superficial displays of charity and piety, we wouldn't need government to begin with.

If Government was capable of this it would be great. In San Diego they are putting up 3 tents for homeless at a cost of six million dollars. Wasting money is no problem for the Government. On the otherhand the San Diego Interfaith shelter project uses 70 local churches to shelter the homeless http://interfaithshelter.org/

That service should be provided by the government, not a privileged special interest group.

I agree, however as someone coming from Europe I don't think that's easily possible. The US seems to require means that don't sound socialist/communist to some people. A lot of investment and subsidization into common good seems to go the route through lowered or absence of taxes and other laws (non profits, churches, etc.) and military (either research, that is later released to the public, and that's not just GPS or infrastructure and services, welfare, education for the poor, if they join the military).

To me it seems that both churches and military investment (in the very broad) are essential and integral for the stability of the US.

I think whether this should be changed is debatable, however I don't think this can be done over night, as it would destroy said stability. Even if a majority could be gained for such a project I think it would have to be a very slow process, as so many other things are built on this foundation and many things seem to have been optimized for this system over time.

However, I am not an expert by any means and just rely on what I see, hear and think when I compare it with Europe. The only thing I have learned is that telling people to do it like others isn't something that can just be done - while keeping some stability that is.

Germany has tithe taxes that supports churches

The government should be providing a sense of community and belief system?

So they need $70B to provide a sense of community and belief system?

They already indoctrinate children with a belief system through public schools. Liberal types are going crazy over charter schools where children get a better education but less indoctrination (both of my children have gone to public schools and charter schools). Another 70 billion to do more of this? I don't think so.

>Churches provide services to communities far exceeding 70 billion.


And they even sign the climate agreements.

While producing three times the CO2 output per dollar of GDP that the US does, with no intention of slowing their CO2 growth at all. Quite the accomplishment, signing some agreements that hold them accountable to nothing, while the US is actually reducing its CO2 emissions by abandoning coal.

Per GDP dollar? That scales with population so you're basically saying bigger countries emit more CO2. You cherry picked a way of measuring it that makes it look bad but hides the underlying cause that's not bad - lots of people.

Per capita, the US has double the CO2 emissions than China.

No intention of slowing it? They're building more nuclear plants than anyone else.

I'd be willing to bet that the US's lifetime emissions vastly outweigh China's lifetime emissions. The US is in no position to lecture anyone.

I though your government was stating there is no need to protect the environment, as it is the product of a collective phantasy of so called researchers.

Yeah, as if China spends every dime efficiently... Their Great Firewall and associated censorship likely adds up to tens of billions per year.

China, as you so easily collectively defined, believes in million things; not better and not worse than US believers.

Yours is really an useless argument. This is more about consolidation of power.

China is extremely mystical in fact.

If you had spent any time there, or knew anything about their culture, you'd already understand that. It's not uncommon, it's completely widspread throughout their society.

See: their cultural obsessions with numerology, superstitions, fate, luck, etc.

On the government level, maybe. On the overall population it's interesting. Many people don't consider themselves religious, when they do practice rituals to please gods. I however am not sure how much of this is tradition and habit, vs believing.

Nevertheless, I found it interesting how practicing "Chinese folk religion" and still calling yourself an atheist seems to not really raise eyebrows.

It would be interesting to hear of someone having more insight, as I only got this off the internet.

Atheism means literally "no god-ism", and since there are religious belief systems that don't involve gods, there is not necessarily a contradiction here.

Yeah, its citizens are free to do what they please, right.

The implication is that computing power has some inherent value, like a country should stockpile it or something.

Much like electricity generation, unused computing power is useless but capacity is very useful and tends to be consumed.

Yeah but there's no "computing race" in which countries compete to have more computing power than the next, despite the implication of articles like this that hint such a race would be important.

Makes not the slightest difference who has computing power. Its relevant only if you have reason to use it, and even then might be completely pointless.

Gave me 100 Cray Y-MP computers and I can't think of a damn thing to do with them. Countries are no different. Giving a country 100Mflops gives it nothing over the next country without 100Mflops.

BUT what I would absolutely say is true is that politicians - those great scum suckers at the bottom of the human pyramid - are highly likely to believe that it is VERY important that a country does not get left behind in its supercomputing power. Fuckwits. This is the sort of article that would send politicians racing to spend government money on state run supercomputing facilities which do..... nothing of any REAL value.

> China’s president Xi Jinping recently said the country is “taking a driving seat” in fighting climate change

One of the only things giving me hope right now.


There's also a Green500 list of most performance-per-watt, i.e. greenest, most efficient computers, and Japan is the clear leader there.

> taking a driving seat

That is pretty funny actually. China is planning to lead the world in electric car manufacturing, where they have some big natural advantages, which they hope will get them into a competitive position in the international automotive market.

They are already leading the world on solar.

Ironic part is we denied them Nvidia chips so they built their own supercomputer chips.

And intel.

read the first 3 paragraphs on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianhe-2

Don't know if that is the reason, but China can build super computers without US parts now.

China made a huge investment in AMD a year or two ago.

intersting, can you order and use them for regular machine learning projects? always looking for ways to escape the nvidia monopoly.

Is this counting "black" systems or not :-) ie those run by TLA's defence etc and never avowed

More interesting would be to find out what exactly they are doing with all that power.

If you go down the list https://www.top500.org/list/2017/11/?page=2, after about 100th place, many are listed as "web service providers" or "service providers" or "internet companies".

probably many of them are bit coin miners.

Bitcoin is one word, but you are definitely on point about China's mining prowess, those are asic miners, so not that super unless the figures are swarmed based.

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