Fujitsu aims for 10-petaflop supercomputer

The machine will be based on Fujitsu's eight-core Sparc64 processor

Fujitsu aims to deliver by early 2011 a 10-petaflop supercomputer, which would be almost 10 times more powerful than today's fastest system.

Fujitsu is building the supercomputer for Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, known as RIKEN, said Takumi Maruyama, head of Fujitsu's processor development department, on the sidelines of the Hot Chips conference at Stanford University on Tuesday.

The system will be based on Fujitsu's upcoming Sparc64 VIIIfx processor, which has eight processor cores and will be an update to the four-core Sparc64 VII chip that Fujitsu released two years ago, Maruyama said.

It remains to be seen if Fujitsu can achieve its goal, and it's likely that other system builders are plotting similarly powerful machines.

IBM has said it will build a "petascale" supercomputer based on its upcoming Power7 processor for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. That machine, dubbed Blue Waters, is also due in 2011.

Today's fastest machine is IBM's Roadrunner system at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, which was rated at 1.105 petaflops on June's Top500 list of supercomputers. A petaflop is equal to one thousand trillion calculations per second.

Maruyama gave the first in-depth look at the Sparc64 VIIIfx on Tuesday. Each of its eight cores runs at 2GHz and accesses 5MB of L2 cache memory. The processor can achieve 128 Gflops performance while drawing 58 watts of power, he said.

It's based on the same Sparc9 instruction set as other Sparc processors, but adds a set of supercomputing extensions known as HPC-ACE, Maruyama said.

While Fujitsu is already planning for the RIKEN machine, it isn't saying yet when the new Sparc64 chip will be available for other systems.

Fujitsu's current Sparc64 chip, the four-core Sparc64 VII, is sold in Unix servers from Fujitsu and Sun Microsystems. It would be "technically possible" to put the eight-core chip in those machines, but Fujitsu has no plans yet to do so, Maruyama said.

Several chip vendors are presenting papers at Hot Chips about eight-core server processors.

IBM is due to discuss its Power7 processor later Tuesday afternoon. That product is due in systems in the first half of next year.

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