July 1, 2020

Japanese-made Supercomputers Reclaim their Global No.1 Rank

The latest global ranking of supercomputers contending over computation speed was published on 22 June. It showed Fugaku, developed by Riken and Fujitsu, in the top spot.

That’s the first time in eight and a half years that Japan has taken the global first place, pulling ahead of the US and China, the two forces which have led the development of the fastest computers. With the arrival of the digital society, the evolution of the fastest computers spawns innovations in searches for new drugs and materials, in artificial intelligence applications, and elsewhere. The new computation power that Fugaku delivers is expected to lead to outstanding results for companies and universities which use it.

National efforts to develop supercomputers in many countries are research infrastructure that is indispensable for modern society. The development of new drugs generally involves searching for candidates which are effective against pathogens, from among countless substances. Action against novel coronavirus infection using Fugaku, which began in April, has been applying advanced computation to research on the selection of therapeutic drug candidates from among about 2,000 existing drugs.

It takes Fugaku a few days to run experiments which would have taken Kei, the Japanese-made supercomputer that had the world’s fastest computation speed in 2011, about a year to complete. It can try tens of thousands of substances in a week. For disaster prevention purposes, it can forecast things like evacuation routes over tens of kilometers of urban terrain in the event of a combined earthquake and tsunami.

Fugaku, the fruit of around JPY130 billion of combined government and private-sector investment, can run application-oriented simulations at high speed, generating data that is the key to innovation. When it goes into full operation from 2021, it will strengthen Japan’s R&D strength and industrial competitiveness. But Japan’s resurgence into the lead is just the beginning of renewed international competition towards unprecedented computation speed.