Computing power holds key to propelling digital economy into the future

2024-03-07 09:37:26China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

OpenAI's latest artificial intelligence model, Sora, took center stage on Chinese social media platforms during Spring Festival with its stunning text-to-video effects. The model sparked heated discussion about AI and the surging demand for computing power.

Experts said computing power, or the capability of a computer to perform calculations and process information, will be key to unlocking new quality productive forces and driving high-quality development in the digital economy.

Numerous data centers that house computing machines and their related hardware are under construction nationwide. Continuous progress in constructing supercomputing networks has led to a gradual fall in the costs of computing power. This, in turn, enhances enterprises' productivity and innovation capabilities, deepens AI applications, and propels robust development of the digital economy across China, an expert said.

Chen Yili, deputy chief engineer at the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology's Cloud Computing and Big Data Research Institute, said, "Algorithms, computing power, and data are the three pillars that support AI development, with computing power serving as the driving force for AI advancement.

"As large-scale AI models now have 1 trillion parameters, the demand for computing power exhibits exponential growth. The enhancement of computing power not only accelerates the training speed of large-scale AI models, but is also a crucial factor for the rapid iteration and widespread application of AI technology."

A recent report by the academy showed that by the end of June, China's total computing power reached 197 exaFLOPS — quintillion floating point operations per second, a measure of computer speed — making the country the world's second-largest in this respect, trailing the United States.

"As a new quality productive force, computing power provides a solid foundation for supporting development of the digital economy. The advancement of computing power promotes technological upgrades, innovations of AI applications, and continuous expansion of its industrial scale," Chen said.

"Apart from sectors such as autonomous driving and intelligent manufacturing, computing power is gradually finding its way into diverse applications. The recent emergence of Sora has allowed each individual to become a proficient video creator. Everyday activities such as watching live streams and binge-watching videos represent typical applications supported by strong computing power."

The academy estimates that every 1 yuan ($0.14) invested in developing computing power will drive GDP growth of 3 to 4 yuan.

"Looking ahead, with the rise of large-scale AI models, 5G, and the industrial internet, it is essential to accelerate China's computing power development. This requires further support from policies, industries and capital," Chen said.

An integrated computing power network is taking shape across China. At the end of last year, China Mobile unveiled the Beijing node of its computing power network. The network's first-phase project can reach a capability of 312 peta-FLOPS — quadrillion floating point operations per second. A new node was launched in Langfang, Hebei province, in January.

China Mobile's Beijing branch said recently that it is working to broaden the accessibility of computing power to more areas. This will enable "computing power to become a service as ubiquitous as water and electricity as soon as possible," the company added.

Meanwhile, China Telecom is constructing a Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei intelligent computing power center in Wuqing district, Tianjin. The center's computing power is expected to reach a capability of nearly 5,000 petaFLOPS by the end of June.

Cui Xu, department director at the center, said, "On completion, the center will offer services to support cloud computing, AI, big data, and innovative computing power services and products. It will also provide computing services for various developers of large-scale AI models, such as text generation and text-to-image."

As computing power is a major energy consumer, China Telecom's Beijing branch used cutting-edge technologies and implemented an AI smart control platform at the center to reduce energy consumption.



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