Japan Aims to Build a World-leading SupercomputerEngineering360 News Desk | November 28, 2016
Japan says it intends to build the world's fastest and most efficient supercomputer by the end of 2017.
If built, the computer, named Artificial Intelligence Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (AIBC), could advance AI research and provide processing power for companies and academic institutions. As computing technology continues to advance, AIBC could also provide researchers with insight into how to push processing power forward for personal computing devices.
The current record-holder for most powerful supercomputer is China's Sunway TaihuLight, which can perform 93 petaflops, that is, one quadrillion floating-point operations per second. The measure of supercomputer performance clocks how fast a machine can perform arithmetic on numbers with fractions.
AIBC would run at over 130 petaflops, according to Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), where the computer will be built. That's a leap over Japan's current fastest supercomputer, which runs at 13.5 petaflops.
The announcement of AIBC comes after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for Japan's governmental and private sectors to work together to put the country at the forefront of new and growing technological markets. AIBC-assisted research will drive Japanese advances in self-driving cars, medical applications, robotics, and more.
But the main goal is to use the calculating capacity of the supercomputer to accelerate aspects of artificial intelligence research, including "deep learning," an attempt to teach machines high-level abstract thinking similar to that of a human being.
The computer is projected to cost the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry $173 million, or 19.5 billion yen. The price tag will likely be mitigated by allowing companies to rent time on the supercomputer for their own use, according to Ars Technica UK. In the meantime, various technology companies have begun bidding on the honor to build the machine themselves, though it is not known whether there are yet any frontrunners.
While advances in supercomputer technology are not generally felt by ordinary people for years, the techniques used to build supercomputers have led to a rapid increase in the speed and efficiency of consumer technologies. The Cray-2 supercomputer, for instance, the fastest machine in the world when it was released in 1985, has 2.7 times less processing power than Apple's iPhone 5. In a few decades, the equivalent of AIBC could be on the market for ordinary consumer use.
A number of challenges must be overcome to make AIBC a reality. One of the most significant is power consumption; AIST wants the computer to run on less than 3 megawatts of power. By comparison, Sunway Taihulight runs on 15 megawatts. AIBC will also have to use liquid cooling to keep the heat generated by the supercomputer to tolerable levels.
AIBC will be constructed at the University of Tokyo's Kashiwa Campus. Like most currently active supercomputers, it will likely run on a Linux operating system.