The K Computer-Fastest in the World

RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan where the K computer is installed.

RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan where the K computer is installed. Photograph: RIKEN/EPA
RIKEN and Fujitsu in joint partnership have developed and are currently configuring the “K computer,” rated the fastest computer in the world by the TOP500 list. Its prime focus will be computational scientific research and its use is expected to have a revolutionary impact on many fields of current international concern, including medicine, global climate research, meteorology, and disaster prevention. The K computer system is due to be deployed in 2012.

RIKEN and Fujitsu in joint partnership have developed and are currently configuring the “K computer,” rated the fastest computer in the world by the TOP500 list. Its prime focus will be computational scientific research and its use is expected to have a revolutionary impact on many fields of current international concern, including medicine, global climate research, meteorology, and disaster prevention. The K computer system is due to be deployed in 2012.

RIKEN, whose scientists initiated the concept of the K computer, was first organized in 1917 as a private research foundation, and reorganized in 2003 as an independent administrative institution under the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology. RIKEN carries out high level experimental and research work in a wide range of fields, including medical science, biology, physics, chemistry, and engineering.

RIKEN’s decision to propose a joint venture with Fujitsu was expected by the IT community, as Fujitsu is a top Japanese multinational computer hardware and IT services company whose central focus is on providing IT-driven business solutions. The company and its subsidiaries also offer a diversity of products and services in the areas of personal computing, telecommunications, and advanced microelectronics, but the K computer is their first project of this caliber.

The K computer system, which has been in the configuration stage since September of 2010, has 672 computer racks equipped with a current total of 68,544 CPUs. This system achieved the world’s best LINPACK benchmark performance of 8.162 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point operations per second), to place it at the head of the 37th semiannual TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers. This is more than three times the number-crunching power of the previous holder of the title, China’s Tianhe-1A, which was ranked second in the latest list. It is also about the equivalent of a million standard desktop PCs.

When configuration of the K computer is complete in 2012, it is designed to achieve LINPACK performance of 10 petaflops. This achievement is the source of the computer’s name, as “K” comes from the Japanese Kanji letter “Kei” which means ten peta or 10 to the 16th power. The logo for the K computer is also based on the Japanese letter for Kei.

“The K computer’s achievement is a big success for Japan,” stated Jack Dongarra, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Tennessee and the leader of the group of researchers who compile the “Top500” supercomputing list.
The United States still remains the leading supercomputing power, accounting for more than half of the 500 fastest machines.

TFOT has also covered the topic of super-fast computing in the articles “‘Wet’ Computing Systems to Boost Processing Power,” researched at the University of Southampton, and “New Compound May Revolutionize Chip Technology,” discovered at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and also in the story “Computer Scientists Break Terabyte Sort Barrier,” in which scientists from the University of California set a world record.