For the first time since 2011, a Japanese supercomputer has won the top prize in a prestigious global speed competition for computers. Winners of the fastest computer in the world have usually been from the U.S. and China.
There were four U.S. supercomputers in the competition as well as two from Italy, two from China, one from Japan, and one from Switzerland.
Fugaku, as the supercomputer is called, clocked in a score of 415.5 petaflops. One petaflop is equivalent to a computer doing a quadrillion floating point operations per second. Read ahead to learn more about the fastest computer in the world.
A supercomputer is 1000 times faster than a regular computer. Fugaku, a Kobe computer developed by Riken and Fujitsu, uses Fujitsu’s system-on-chip, 48-core A64FX.
Although the TOP500 competition for the fastest supercomputer in the world has been swinging back and forth between American-made and Chinese-made systems, Japan has finally come in for the win.
That’s nine years after Fugaku’s predecessor, the Riken’s K computer came out on the scene. It’s the first time an ARM processor-based machine has topped the list.
ARM processors need less transistors, are cheaper, use less power, and produce less heat. They are usually confined to the world of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops, making Fugaku ‘s win especially compelling.
Fugaku also achieved top spot in three other rankings that check computers for different workloads. Those include Graph 500, HPL-AI, and HPCG. No previous supercomputer has ever led all four rankings simultaneously.
How Fast Is It?
Fugaku turned 415.5 petaflops into a TOP500 HPL score, 2.8 times faster than its closest rival, IBM’s Summit. Summit clocked in 148.6 petaflops. The US unit is based in Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
It’s pretty hard to get your head around those numbers. One petaflop is a quadrillion “floating point operations,” or computer arithmetic calculations per second, and you have to multiply that by 415.5.
According to Indiana University, to keep up with a one-petaflop supercomputer, you will need to perform one calculation every second for 31,688,765 years.
Multiply that by 415.53 petaflops and that’s one calculation every second for about 13.2 billion years.
“For ARM, this achievement showcases the power efficiency, performance, and scalability of our compute platform, which spans from smartphones to the world’s fastest supercomputer,” said Rene Haas, president of Arm’s IP Products Group.
The cost of building Fugaku was around a billion dollars, equal to what is expected for exascale machines in the United States.
The total includes “significant R&D cost & the DC upgrade cost,” Satoshi Matsuoka, director of the RIKEN Center, stated in a tweet, including “it would have cost 3 times as much if we had used off-the-shelf CPUs.”
What Is It Used For?
Fugaku is housed at the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan. The initial concept emerged back in 2014, the supercomputer will not be fully operational until April 2021.
At RIKEN approximately 3,000 researchers use the machine for new drug discoveries, personalized and protective medicine, simulations of natural disasters, and investigations of the universe’s fundamental laws.
Fugaku is also working on combating the coronavirus by visualizing how droplets can spread in office spaces with partitions mounted or in packed trains with open windows.
Scientists hope the computer will be able to narrow down the search for successful treatments for the virus when it is fully functional next year.
According to Matsuoka, Fugaku was developed to be a high-performance computer that would supply a variety of applications for the greater public interest.
Fugaku developers are hoping the leading-edge IT developed for it will contribute to overcoming human challenges like that of COVID-19.