Japan eyes advanced supercomputer in 5 yrs

CIOL Bureau
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TOKYO: Japan is aiming to develop a supercomputer it hopes will be fast enough to help it regain the top spot it lost to U.S. makers last year in an industry that is often seen as a proxy fight for technological supremacy.

The government wants to develop a supercomputer that can handle over a quadrillion calculations per second as early as the fiscal year ending in March 2011, an official at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said on Monday.

That would compare with the 70.72 trillion calculations per second in independent tests last year for International Business Machines Corp.'s Blue Gene/L, currently the world's fastest computer built for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Agency.

Japan's fastest machine currently is NEC Corp.'s Earth Simulator, which boasts nearly 36 trillion calculations per second.

It had been the world's fastest supercomputer until last year, when it was overtaken by a machine made by Silicon Graphics Inc. and by Blue Gene/L.

The U.S. and Japan have battled for a number of years over supremacy in supercomputers, machines that have massive processing power and which are used in advanced climate forecasting, medical research and other areas.

Japan's new supercomputer would enable medical researchers to conduct comprehensive simulations on how a medicine is dissolved and carried through a human body and how it affects a specific organ, for example, the ministry official said.

It would also help provide weather forecasts with improved accuracy, the official said.

NEC, Hitachi Ltd., the University of Tokyo and Kyushu University were chosen by the ministry earlier this month to develop critical technologies to make the ultra-fast computer possible.

Details such as how much total investment will be needed for the project and which organisations will be involved in the actual development has yet to be decided.