Fugaku: The fastest supercomputer in the world is finally at full operational status

Conceived of in 2014, Fugaku's construction was completed last May and the ribbon has finally been cut for shared experimental use.

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Image: RIKEN

Researchers at Japan's RIKEN institute have announced something the scientific community has been waiting for nearly a decade to hear: Fugaku is fully operational and ready to prove itself as the world's most powerful supercomputer.

Originally conceived of in 2014 as a project between RIKEN and Japanese computing firm Fujitsu, trial use of Fugaku began in April 2020, and the final of its 432 racks was delivered in May 2020, according to a ZDNet article by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet

Now, after having undergone nearly a year of testing on projects aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic, RIKEN is ready to start accepting projects from researchers around the world.

"Fugaku is a key national technology, and we will manage it responsibly with the goal to achieve research results that will help build a long-lived and healthy society, disaster mitigation, and better energy use," RIKEN President Hiroshi Matsumoto said in a press release.

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Fugaku has controlled the top spot on the list of fastest supercomputers since mid-2020, and it continues to hold that spot in the most recent Top 500 list published in November. With three times the computing power of runner-up IBM Summit, Fugaku is likely to remain the supercomputer to beat until the LUMI is completed in Finland.

Fugaku is powered by ARM A64FX chips, of which it has 7,630,848 cores. When tested against the HPL supercomputing benchmark, it set a world record of 442 petaflops, and against the high-performance computing artificial intelligence workload (HPC-AI) benchmark it maxed out at 2.0 exaflops, beating the previous record (also held by Fugaku) of 1.4 exaflops set in June 2020. According to Top 500, Fugaku's HPC-AI benchmark was "the first benchmark measurements above one exaflop for any precision on any type of hardware."

In terms of the type of research Fugaku will be working on, some projects have already returned results. Along with working on COVID-19 solutions like mask efficiency and drug efficacy, Fugaku was also used to develop an AI model that simulated tsunami waves to forecast flooding in Japan. Seventy-four additional projects were selected for implementation starting in April 2021, and RIKEN opened its call for proposals for additional research projects on Tuesday.

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Fugaku has also been used jointly by the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Fujitsu Laboratories to analyze cancer genes; the pair announced in November that Fugaku had allowed them to fully analyze cancer genes in less than a day. For comparison, that's a process that used to take months. 

Expect Fugaku to continue bringing scientific and medical breakthroughs to the world in 2021 and beyond. "Our center will continue to conduct research and development to strengthen Fugaku and to advance the future of computation. Fugaku will certainly play an active role as a core infrastructure for the building of Society 5.0 and to contribute to further progress in science, technology and innovation," said Satoshi Matsuoka, RIKEN center director.

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