And This Month’s Winner for World’s Fastest Computer...Japan!
Roopinder Tara posted on June 24, 2020 |
It’s a knockout. ARM-based supercomputer almost 3 times as fast as IBM’s Summit

Winner by a knockout, 2.8 times faster than the previous champ, is the new heavyweight champion of computing. Fugaku (Mt. Fuji in Japanese) displaced Summit, an IBM supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee. Sierra, also an IBM system, also in a national lab (Lawrence Livermore) drops to 3rd place in the TOP500 rankings.

Every 6 months, supercomputers are ranked in a top 500 list. The list is dominated by China (226 of the TOP500 installations) and the US (114). Japan is third in number of installations with 29. However, sorted by usage, the 3 leading countries are a lot closer, with US in the lead, supercomputing for a total of 644 petaflops (petaflop = 1015 floating point operations a second), then China with 565 petaflops and Japan not far behind with 530 petaflops – despite far fewer installations. 

(Picture courtesy of RIKEN)

The Fugaku  supercomputer installation at RIKEN in Kobe, Japan. (Picture courtesy of RIKEN)

While the military and governments are the top users of the top supercomputers for code breaking and climate modeling, Fugaku will also be used for studying, diagnosing and treating COVID-19, says the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, where the computer will be housed.

The Fugaku took a staggering $1.2 billion to create, according to several sources, making the US computers (only $600 million) seem like a bargain. 

The Fugaku is the first time an ARM architecture based supercomputer has been crowned champ. Fugaku uses Fujitsu’s 48-core A64FX SoC (system on a chip). ARM, founded in the UK, was acquired in 2016 by Japan's SoftBank, a $32 billion deal. The vast majority of supercomputers on the list are Intel-based (469 out of the TOP500) with AMD taking up almost every other remaining spot (11). Four use Fujitsu’s processors.

The impact of being #1 on the TOP500 is bound to provide Fujitsu and ARM an advantage in marketing and is another blow to Intel as Apple made public its decision just days ago to move away from Intel and make chips of its own design. Last year, the most renowned name in supercomputers, Cray, synonymous with supercomputers for the first decades of their existence, founded by the legendary Seymour Cray, announce plans for using ARM-based hardware. 

What is the TOP500 List?
The TOP5OO started as a list of supercomputer rankings in June 1993 during a conference in Germany. Given the nature of computing, it had to be updated on a regular basis, so every 6 months, a small group of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Labs, the University of Tennessee and Germany’s ISC group do just that in a much anticipated industry event -- though this next event, like every other, has been scuttled by COVID-19.

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