June 20, 2011

Japan Now Hosts World’s Fastest Computer

Fujitsu Ltd and the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) said Monday that a Japanese supercomputer has become the fastest in the world, making calculations more than three times faster than a Chinese rival.

According to its developers, the supercomputer has achieved 8.162 quadrillion calculations per second, or 8.162 petaflops in computer terms.

The computer overtook China's Tianhe-1A of the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, which became the world number-one in November and is capable of operating at 2.566 petaflops.

Fujitsu and RIKEN said in a statement that the K Computer's performance was recognized by the Top500 List of Supercomputers released on Monday at the 2011 International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

It is the first Japanese supercomputer since 2004 to become the world's fastest.

NEC's Earth Simulator was the world's fastest computer between June 2002 and November 2004.

K Computer's developers said the machine will be powerful enough to tackle complex calculations relating to climate research and disaster prevention.

"Use of the K computer is expected to have a groundbreaking impact in fields ranging from global climate research, meteorology, disaster prevention, and medicine, thereby contributing to the creation of a prosperous and secure society," the statement added.

The statement said K Computer is being configured and has been assembled since October 2010 at a RIKEN's facility in Kobe, where it should be completed by June 2012.

Fujitsu and RIKEN said in a statement that it is made up of 672 computer cabinets currently equipped with 65,544 computer processing units (CPUs).

The machine will have over 80,000 CPUs and be able to operate at 10 petaflops.

According to the companies, the project was launched in 2006 with a budget of about $1.4 billion.  The project overcame supply chain difficulties caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country's northeast Tohoku region.

Fujitsu chairman Michiyoshi Mazuka said in a statement he was grateful to "our partners in the Tohoku region for their commitment to delivering a steady supply of components, even though they themselves were affected by the disaster."

RIKEN president Ryoji Noyori said: "I very much believe that the strength and perseverance that was demonstrated during this project will also make possible the recovery of the devastated Tohoku region."

Noyori, the 2001 Nobel laureate in chemistry, told a news conference later: "I am glad because the world number-one spot, by such an overwhelming margin, has proven that our country's industrial technology remains sound."

"After all, we must aim for the top in research."

The project's budget was cut in 2009 under a drive by the government.

A minister in charge of administrative reform asked at that time: "What is the reason for seeking to be the world number one? Can't you make do with second place?"

However, the Yomiuri newspaper said the K Computer may find it hard to survive intensifying competition as a 1,000-petaflops supercomputer is under consideration in the U.S.


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