Peak Performance

Designed with general purpose users in mind, the Fugaku supercomputer has the performance and energy efficiency of a GPU-accelerated machine but remains easy to program.

AsianScientist (Apr. 7, 2021) – When the novel coronavirus became a pandemic in spring 2020, Japan became something of a mystery to international observers. Why were relatively few people becoming infected and hospitalized, let alone dying?

The debate witnessed all kinds of possible explanations, from the fact that Japanese routinely wear face masks to the continued use of the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine for tuberculosis. Few people, however, pointed to Japan’s high-tech prowess, specifically its creation of a machine that would be harnessed to fight the pandemic: the Fugaku supercomputer.

Developed by Japan’s state-backed RIKEN research center and Fujitsu, Fugaku is remarkable for several reasons. Not the least of which is its current status as an exascale machine that’s the fastest supercomputer in the world—it has a High Performance Linpack result of 442 petaFLOPS, according to the November 2020 ranking by the TOP500 project. That’s more than 442 quadrillion computations per second, which is about 2.8 times speedier than the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit machine, which Fugaku dethroned.

“Fujitsu’s Fugaku installed at RIKEN is an impressive supercomputer that was designed for large-scale scientific computations,” said Prof. Jack Dongarra, a TOP500 author who holds appointments at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “This shows in its taking the number one position for the TOP500, the HPCG, and the HPL-AI benchmarks.”

In addition to those, Fugaku also scored tops in the Graph500 ranking, earning it a quadruple crown. But apart from returning Japan to the lead in the supercomputing race after almost a decade, Fugaku represents a novel chip architecture and an unprecedented deployment of high-performance computing to fight a once-in-a-century public health threat.

Tim Hornyak is a Canadian writer based in Tokyo, Japan, who has worked in journalism for more than 20 years. He has written extensively about travel, food, technology, science, culture and business in Japan, as well as Japanese inventors, roboticists and Nobel Prize-winning scientists. He is the author of Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots and has contributed to several Lonely Planet travel guidebooks. He has lived in Tokyo for more than 15 years.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist