The latest supercomputer developed by Japan’s state-backed Riken research institute has the world’s fastest computing speed, according to a biannual ranking announced Monday by the U.S.-European TOP500 project. The ranking marks the first time in nine years that a Japanese supercomputer has captured the top position.
The supercomputer, named Fugaku after Mount Fuji, also took the top spot in three other categories that measured performance in computational methods for industrial use, artificial intelligence applications and big data analytics.
It is the first time that a supercomputer has topped the rankings in the four categories, according to Riken.
Fugaku, which was jointly developed with Fujitsu Ltd. at the institute’s facility in Kobe, forms a key foundation for powerful simulations used in scientific research and the development of industrial and military technologies.
“We were able to stand out in all the key specifications for supercomputers and demonstrate it is the world’s highest performing. We expect it will aid in solving difficult societal problems such as the fight against the novel coronavirus,” said Satoshi Matsuoka, the institute’s computational science center director.
Shinichi Kato, president of Fujitsu IT Products Ltd., also expressed his delight, saying, “I feel extremely happy and honored to have been involved in creating Fugaku.” Fujitsu IT Products, a wholly owned unit of Fujitsu, was in charge of the production of the supercomputer.
Fugaku was ranked No. 1 after performing over 415 quadrillion computations per second, around 2.8 times faster than the Summit system developed by the U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which secured the top spot in the last ranking in November 2019.
Another supercomputer developed by the United States ranked No. 3, while China held both the fourth and fifth spots. Fugaku was the only Japanese supercomputer to rank in the top 10. The AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Chiba Prefecture ranked 12th.
The new Riken-Fujitsu supercomputer was transported to the institute’s Center for Computational Science in Kobe in May, the same location that housed its predecessor, the K supercomputer, which was decommissioned last summer.
Currently being operated on a trial basis for research on potential medicines to fight the novel coronavirus, Fugaku is expected to be fully operational in the business year starting April 2021.
The K supercomputer, which was the world’s first supercomputer to make over 10 quadrillion computations per second, ranked No. 1 in June 2011 and retained the top spot for a year.
Since then, the United States has dominated the ranking, along with China. The enormous costs required to develop supercomputers means Japan can only budget to develop one every few years, unlike the United States and China.
The K supercomputer became the subject of controversy in 2009 as lawmaker Renho, then with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and a member of a government panel seeking to cut spending on less urgent items in the national budget, questioned whether Japan needed to pursue the No. 1 position amid an economic crisis.