National / Science & Health

Japan pulls plug on K, once the world's fastest supercomputer, after seven-year run

Supercomputer set record for CPU speed of over 10 petaflops in 2011

JIJI

Engineers were set to pull the plug on Japan’s K supercomputer on Friday after seven years of service, during which time it made contributions to research in many fields, including typhoon and torrential rain forecasts and drug development.

K’s duties will be taken over by Fugaku, a successor that’s scheduled to go into operation in 2021. Fugaku will be over 100 times more powerful than K.

The K computer was set to cease regular operations at midnight Friday. It was officially made available for use by researchers in 2012 after being jointly developed by government-affiliated research institute Riken and Fujitsu Ltd. with a state budget of about ¥110 billion.

With over 80,000 central processing units, K recorded the world’s fastest calculating speed — over 10 petaflops per second — in November 2011.

From June 2015, K topped the list of the world’s fastest computers for the ninth consecutive time. Earlier, the K project had survived criticism from the government, then led by the Democratic Party of Japan, which had questioned the wisdom of spending heavily on supercomputer development.

In the latest rankings, the K computer placed 20th as countries across the world race to build faster machines. Those from the United States and China currently dominate the top five spots.

Riken, based in Kobe, plans to hold a ceremony on Aug. 30 when K is scheduled to be fully shut down.

The institute made the computer available for use by junior high and high school students for the first time earlier this month as part of summer vacation programs for children.

About 20 students used the computer for calculations.

“We let them use it as this was the last chance. We hope they will take part in supercomputer use or design in the future,” a Riken official said.

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