Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
×
Hardware

Japan Builds World's Fastest Computer 549

claylikethemud writes "The New York Times reports that Japan has built the world's most powerful supercomputer from "640 specialized nodes that are in turn composed of 5,104" NEC processors. The machine boasts the computing power equivalent to the 20 fastest American supercomputers combined, and with a top speed of 35.6 teraflops, outpaces the next fastest machine, the ASCI White Pacific, by more than factor of five. Applications include climate modeling, global warming prediction, and other non-weapons research."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Japan Builds World's Fastest Computer

Comments Filter:
  • by saihung ( 19097 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:37AM (#3378726)
    With all of the supercomputer posts on /. recently, I've seen a lot of talk about the various ASCI projects in the works by IBM and others. No one even mentioned this before. I'm glad to see that someone is building supercomputers for reasons other than nuclear weapons research though.
    • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Saturday April 20, 2002 @09:19AM (#3378849) Homepage Journal
      I'm glad to see that someone is building supercomputers for reasons other than nuclear weapons research though.

      For some reason Japan isn't all that keen on nuclear weapons.

      --
      Evan

      • by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @10:26AM (#3379011) Homepage Journal
        For some reason Japan isn't all that keen on nuclear weapons.

        Or is it? A Japanese no longer unthinkable [yahoo.com]

      • For some reason Japan isn't all that keen on nuclear weapons.

        No, they arn't they seem to prefer the less traditional giant robot to the nuclear weapon standard.
        I wonder why...
    • focusing your national tech efforts on research other than military research also benefits the wider economy. spending increasingly large chunks of your gdp - as seems to be occuring in the us - on non-productive military projects removes resources - brains, research dollars - from the civilian economy. no coincidence i think that two of the emergent economic and technological powers afer world war 2 were germany and japan, countries pretty much forbidden to spend money on military r+d. and don't forget the destablising effect that the vietnam war had on the world economy in the 1970s ...
    • Not true, the Earth Simulator has been mentioned a few times [slashdot.org] in Slashdot comments.

      I'm pretty sure this is where I heard about it months ago.

  • Read about it here (Score:5, Informative)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:37AM (#3378728)

    Info. you don't need to subscribe for here:

    http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/business/ 31 04568.htm
  • by weird mehgny ( 549321 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:39AM (#3378733)
    It's not at all weird that Japan of all countries has to build a computer of this kind, considering how complex text processing is over there...
  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:41AM (#3378737)
    Interesting comment from the SJ Mercury

    The accomplishment is also a dramatic statement of contrasting scientific and technology priorities in the United States and Japan. The Japanese machine was built to analyze climate change, including global warming, as well as weather and earthquake patterns. The United States has predominantly focused its efforts on building powerful computers for simulating weapons.
    • The accomplishment is also a dramatic statement of contrasting scientific and technology priorities in the United States and Japan. The Japanese machine was built to analyze climate change, including global warming, as well as weather and earthquake patterns. The United States has predominantly focused its efforts on building powerful computers for simulating weapons.

      Not surprising. Not in the least. Of course, the United States government is going to be spending its cash on simulating nuclear weapons. They have to. They have nuclear weapons. The Japanese, as far as I know, don't. Japan was stripped of a military after World War II probably because the U.S. feared that the same thing would happen to Japan that happened to Germany after WWI, that is, that Japan would get strong again and attack. That is probably why they don't have a military (I think they now have a token military but not a real one) and have no need to simulate nuclear weapons.

      As for being the fastest. IBM's Blue Gene [ibm.com] will outstrip this Japanese model in two or three years. That's the downside. It will be two or three years from now. Oh well, it will run at One-Petaflop.

      • That is probably why they don't have a military (I think they now have a token military but not a real one)



        Actually, Japan has one of the largest military budgets in the world. They call their military the `Self Defense Forces', but it's the real thing, with big ships, tanks, fighter jets, and all that good stuff. No nukes though.

        • Japan has a military budget of 45 Billion. 7 Billion more than France, 3 Billion less than Russia.

          The US Budget is 265 Billion.

          My problem with what you said, is that you made it seem that Japans budget is close to the US's budget.

          All in all, it is a surprisingly large amount for a country that doesn't go into military actions. Who are they defending themselves from?
          • "All in all, it is a surprisingly large amount for a country that doesn't go into military actions. Who are they defending themselves from?"

            Red China and North Korea, for starters (who both have nukes, BTW). They don't exactly have the friendliest of neighbors over there. They would be stupid not to have a good defensive force.
          • by smagoun ( 546733 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @10:22AM (#3378999) Homepage
            Hell, with a budget of 265 Billion, who are WE defending ourselves from? Everyone else.....at once?
            • by fr2asbury ( 462941 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @10:41AM (#3379065)
              The US military budget is SO high, because when we go to war, we want to destroy weapons and remove evil doers with surgical precision. All the while making the locals love the US.
              The US ideally would go to war where only weapons ould be destroyed and noone would get killed.
              To acieve this goal our weapons have to be extremely high tech.
              Oddly enough it's value of all human life, both ours and the people in the region we're fighting that makes our budget so huge.

              Cheers,

              Jonathan
            • by CokeBear ( 16811 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @11:26AM (#3379233) Journal
              Canadians [globeandmail.com] of course!
              You never know when some pesky Canadians on a training exercise in Afganistan will suddenly turn their weapons on an American F16.
              • You never know when some pesky Canadians on a training exercise in Afganistan will suddenly turn their weapons on an American F16.

                I know this may sound like a joke but the military did turn around and perform a study of how to defend the U.S. against Canada right after WWII, I think, mostly because there was nothing to do (all the bad guys had been defeated).

                Really, I think, the exercise of how to defend against an attack by Canada was more for practice than for anything else.


          • My problem with what you said, is that you made it seem that Japans budget is close to the US's budget.


            Japan's budget is big enough that the US wouldn't attack them. Israel spends much less on it's military than France, but they can fly twice as many sorties than the US in the middle east. If they didn't have that military we would probably have sent in UN troops a long time ago to make the palestinian concentration camps more livable. (I mean concentrarion camp in the traditional way, not as the WWII euphamism for the death camps.)

            I'm one for a stronger Japanese army, it's already strong in a conventional sense, but nuclear weapons would be a plus if only to keep an future war conventional. They have a vibrant democracy, and I don't see that changing even if they are experiencing their "great recession."
          • North Korea and China, mainly. Did you know that North Korea sends spy ships to the Japanese coast? They drop off commandos, who kidnap Japanese citizens, who are taken back to North Korea, where presumably they provide some kind of intelligence regarding current events in Japan. I'm not kidding, this really happens and is a sore spot between Japan and North Korea (Japan wants its citizens back). Japan's MSDF recently sunk [yahoo.com] a spy ship that opened fire when it was intercepted.

            Now admit you're ignorant of the security situation in East Asia and we'll go on. "Who are they defending themselves from". . . what a Chomskyite statement. Believe it or not, a military is in fact necessary even for pacifist regimes like Japan.

      • the U.S. feared that the same thing would happen to Japan that happened to Germany after WWI, that is, that Japan would get strong again and attack.



        I'm more of a believer that the US foreign policy folks realized that making Japan artificially weak, in the manner that Germany was treated post WWI with their 'reparations' penalties, would be to repeat a horrible mistake. This would only generate resentment amongst the people, paving the way for 'dynamic leadership' i.e. another fascist/totalitarian government, this time in Japan.


        By re-making Japan in their own image, the Americans gained a strong ally instead of creating a bitter foe. Why attack the nation that put you back on your feet? There's a lesson to be learned there.

      • 200 teraflops != One PetaFlop
        1,000 Teraflops = One PeatFlop

        100 million dollars for another supercomputer just for bragging rights = One bellyflop

      • > That is probably why they don't have a military (I think they now have a token military but not a real one) and have no need to simulate nuclear weapons.

        Actually, it is/was not a dictated decision.
        Quite the contrary, the US was quite eager to arm (West-)Germany and Japan after WWII in order to have strong partners against the Warshaw Pact nations.
        Due to their historical background, both nations have a strong pacifistic movement (at last), which actually opposed against building up any armed forces. Probably to appease these movements (and their neighbours), both armies contain something like defense in their name (~jiei~ / -wehr) and in their respective foundations actually forbade military actions outside the nations boundaries.

        Both countries are capable to produce nuclear weapons, having nuclear plants and capable scientists, but strongly oppose to the idea of doing so.
        (Which might be easier, when you have a strong ally, who assures MAD, in case of an attack.)

        Japan has a spending limit of 1% of GNP
        (The US spends about 3%, Germany 1.5%)

    • Actually, it seems that both countries have aimed their programs squarely at 'solving' their fears. The U.S. has the paranoia that goes with being the biggest kid on the block, with every other asshole wanting a piece of you--so they (we--I'm American) concentrate on weapons. The Japanese seem to worry about bad weather--something about living on an archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean--so they want to simulate it.

      The irony is that both could achieve perfect success with these computers and still be very far from fixing their problem. Perfect understanding of nuclear explosions is only a tiny, tiny piece of the national security equation, and perfect understanding of how typhoons are born, live and die still leaves you a very long way from knowing how to turn one off.

      BTW, my daytime job is in aviation. I wish the Japanese all the success in the world at improving weather forecasting--the current state of the art is a disgrace.

    • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <ed@membled.com> on Saturday April 20, 2002 @09:13AM (#3378828) Homepage
      What surprises me is that this is the first we (Slashdot readers) have heard about it. There have been several headlines saying 'new supercomputer planned' with a story 'it will be quite fast, and finished in 2004'... but this new world's-fastest-computer just suddenly appeared without being preannounced.

      Are any of the supercomputer projects in the pipeline expected to be faster than this?
  • More protectionism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by saihung ( 19097 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:43AM (#3378745)
    Also worth noting is that the article mentions that the US gov't has blocked sales of these machines because they believe that NEC is "dumping" them on the US market - eg selling them below cost. Has there been any WTO action on these restrictions? Wouldn't this be a perfect test case for getting US trade restrictions struck down?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The Japanese vendors (e.g. Fujitsu, NEC) have historically tried to undercut the high performance computer (HPC) vendors. HPC is a difficult enough nmarket in the U.S. due to the small numbers of customers, strong competition and shifts in govt. direction (which is a big problem as Govt. both regulates and is the biggest customer). The Japanese govt. protects and subsidizes its supercomputing vendors. Although HPC is a small part of the computing market, HPC develops technology which becomes mainstream, such as Vector Processing (MMX instruction set in Pentiums), SuperScalar, Pipelining, Dynamic Scheduling of FPUS, as well as some ideas that may catch on soon, e.g. VLIW in Intel's IA-64, Simultaneous Multithreading and Multiple processors on a chip. With the current patenting climate, it may be that we will be paying license fees for patents generated by the HPC people. The U.S. should try to revitalize its HPC industry before processor design and production goes the way of Steel, Cars, and Motherboards (memory almost went that way, but Micron may stop it).
    • Wouldn't this be a perfect test case for getting US trade restrictions struck down?

      Not really since the dumping claim was dropped after they reached an agreement that made Cray the exclusive US distributer.

    • Okay, so then the Japanese complain about us dumping. Then what? Let's say they win in WTO hearings. How nice for them. Then the US just ignores it. Why? Because we can. What real punishment can the WTO provide?

      The WTO is totally powerless, especially against the US. The only thing it provides is a common forum for working these issues out and for establishing a sort of trade best practices. But when you get right down to it, trade disputes are settled as they always have been, either through discussion, or through various embargoes, tariffs, etc. The WTO may add some legitimacy to a particular countries use of some tariffs, etc, but overall it doesn't provide any significant sanctioning ability.

      That's the funny thing with all of the world governmental bodies. They have no real power, they mostly just serve as negotiating platforms. The real power continues to be held by individual nations and there's no evidence that they'll be giving up that power anytime soon.
    • Yeah - let's hope the strategically important U.S. supercomputer industry gets run out of business by ruthless Japanese competition, and the U.S. no other options than to purchase whatever lowest-bidder technology the Japanese choose to offer.

      You might be intentionally burying your head in the sand, but it's a fact that Japanese companies will always choose to increase market share at the expense of profitability. Once they put their foreign competitors out of business and get the market share, they really don't know what to do with it (their 1980s economy burst over 10 years ago and they haven't fixed it yet).

  • *sighs* (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:47AM (#3378754)
    Don't you wonder why they bother? They're only going to have to destroy the thing when it sprouts purple tentacles and destroys Tokyo.
  • We all know that it's really used for Japan's top secret Super Ultra Omega Gundam Robot Mobile Suit 95006^10.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The supercomputer was built with 'the earth systems model' in mind. This will be the most ambitious computer model ever concieved. It aims to simulate every aspect of the earth system climate - including more processes than ever before: atmospheric processes, ocean processes,land surface feedbacks and land use models, economic models, ice sheet models, at a higher resolution than ever before.

    Predictably the model is rumoured to be still 2 years off target yet - so there is the worlds fastest computer sitting idle for the mean time.

    Perhaps I could buy some space to run my webpage off it in the mean time ... ;-)
  • by haedesch ( 247543 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:52AM (#3378771) Homepage
    generates a login:
    http://www.majcher.com/nytview.html [majcher.com]
  • by Bnonn ( 553709 ) <bnonny@gmail.com> on Saturday April 20, 2002 @08:59AM (#3378790) Homepage Journal
    ...become a huge goddamned distributed-network-in-a-room?
    • So when does a computer... ...become a huge goddamned distributed-network-in-a-room?

      When it scales above the number of processors you can fit on one motherboard.

      Multiprocessing systems are communications-bound for most tasks. The communications network becomes more important than the processor very early on.
  • Install Kazaa ;)
  • ....Applications include climate modeling, global warming prediction, and other non-weapons research.

    I can give you a global warming prediction right away: If when you fire that baby up, the global tempature rises!

    If I let my machine be powerd off by night, I have to turn up the temp before I go to bed. And I only got two old P-II CPUs running.
  • by ascending ( 179800 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @09:14AM (#3378833)
    Applications include climate modeling, global warming prediction, and other non-weapons research."

    This is of course in addition to weapons research of course.
  • Evil: "Back in the Sixties I had a weather changing machine that was in essence a sophisticated heat beam which we called a "laser." Using this laser, we punch a hole in the protective layer around the Earth, which we scientists call the "Ozone Layer." Slowly but surely, ultraviolet rays would pour in, increasing the risk of skin cancer. That is, unless the world pays us a hefty ransom."

    Weather research my butt!
  • Just think, now that they have all of this processing power they can do some of the following:

    1) Make a metal that looks like plastic. Handy for all of those rocket launches.

    2) Genetically engineer large reptiles to guard their country from invaders.

    3) One word: Gundam.

    4) Launch theoretical bombs at ASCI White and see if they can finally win the technology war.

    5) Create a fully aware computer program that will help guard us from ourselves.

    6) Make a fully synthetic actor that can outact, say, Keanu Reeves. (Oh, sorry, that was the Thunderbirds).

    What other possibilities can this thing hold?
  • The last time I checked, Google had more than 10,000 servers. [nwfusion.com] I realize these aren't tightly coupled, parallel processors, but it's still a massive machine. Is it 10,000 computers or one? I say for the purposes of comparision that it would beat the Japanese computer. If not now, in a few months when Google's installation grows even larger. This piece struck me as a thinnly-veiled ploy to get more cash for some government computer lab.
    • The japanese computer has MILLIONS of processors. Google doesn't even come close to 1/100th of the size.

      Google can NOT do 36.5 TERAFLOPS.

      The japanese computer is bigger than the top 10 US supercomputers combined. DO you mean to say google is bigger than that?

      ANd btw, this project has been in the works for years, I remember reading about it in some science magazine 3 or 4 years ago, when they started the project.

  • Pictures here! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 20, 2002 @09:33AM (#3378888)
    Pictures here [jamstec.go.jp]. so cool!
  • We test one.

    They test one.

    Ad infinitum while the world cringes in fear.

    It's going to get ugly when Cuba starts hosting Japanese built systems.


    [Okay. Lame joke. It sounded better before I typed it, but I'm too attatched to the effort to not post. You're Welcome.]


    -Fantastic Lad

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 20, 2002 @10:07AM (#3378951)
    Jeez, could you imagine a single one of those...
  • by lildogie ( 54998 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @10:07AM (#3378953)
    ...we still operate under this 640 node barrier.
  • New news! (Score:2, Insightful)

    Finally, some new news (as opposed to "this is nothing new").

    Question - why is it that we JUST found out about this? How long did it take to build this giant supercomputer? Companies like IBM talk about what they're building long before they are done. Speaking of which, I guess IBM's Deep Blue is kinda underpowered now, relatively speaking.

    One more thing - why all the hub-bub about US export restrictions re: computer power? If Japan already has this much computing power, who wants our "junk" anyway?
    I lied - one more thing - does the NSA have penis envy over this? Or is their computer still faster? ;)
    • It was published in Scientific American, I think, about 3 or 4 years ago.

      You *JUST* found out about it because you get your news from a narrow band of news sources.

      This was in Scientific American, or something similar 3 years ago or so, when the project was starting.

  • by sisukapalli1 ( 471175 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @10:16AM (#3378982)
    It takes about a few weeks on Sun ultra sparcs to simulate a week long air pollution scenario over the north eastern united states. This is assuming a 8x8 km grid (where the 8x8 sqkm area is one "point"). The wind modeling is extremely simplified, and the focus is on a select set of contaminants.

    To do a detailed wind modeling, and have a finer resolution, and to do some statistical analysis of different input conditions... suddenly we end up with requirements far more than the current computing power.

    We can always come up with a problem that is more complex than we can solve using current computing power. That is a good pursuit.

    S
  • I remember seeing this in a magazine a couple years back as a planned project.

    Nice to see it working now.

  • Sorry, just couldn't resist. :)
  • This is great news really. With the supercomputers built for weapons research naturally people doing "normal" research will have problems getting access.

    After all they don't want just anyone poking around and finding things they shouldn't.

    But with non weapons research systems I can see academics from all over the world getting easier access and maybe something interesting can happen.
  • by Gannoc ( 210256 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @10:45AM (#3379083)
    6) Make a fully synthetic actor that can outact, say, Keanu Reeves.


    Eliza did that several years ago.

  • By some rough statistics that I remember, it could render the original Toy Story completely in 30 hours easily. It might not even take that long. Rendering a whole movie in a day, Edwin Catmull would be proud.
  • WOPR

    "Would you like a nice game of chess?"

  • but does it open the pod doors when asked to? :-)
  • by realdpk ( 116490 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @11:32AM (#3379256) Homepage Journal
    I'm just waiting for Tom's Hardware to write up an article on how to overclock this to get an additional 1,000,000 fps in Quake III.
  • OF course you have to assume that under typical black projects the DoE/DoD/NSA is running machines far more complex and powerful than they let on. After all SR-71s were a strategic asset 40 years ago and the performance specs are still largely classified. Similarly with computing. A

    Also keep in mind that several years ago the US govt complained about the French performing nuclear testing under the rubric that they could do it all on a machine. And low and behold only a few weeks ago the DoE 'announced' that they now have the capability to do that, seemingly forgetting that it was previously announced in 1999. So in the intervening 3 years how far do you think they've come.

    You know, there are scads of scientists working for the govt who could probably get on the short list for the Nobel if they were allowed to publically publish... and that's basic research. Imagine what applied engineering looks like..
  • by wapentake ( 11847 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @12:24PM (#3379431)
    Contrary to rumor,
    the machine is constructed from 640 nodes, with 8 vector processors per node, and 16GB RAM per node. That totals 5120 processors and 10TB memory.

    See http://www.es.jamstec.go.jp/esc/eng/outline/outlin e02.html

    Also of note:
    peak performance per processor: 8 GFLOPS
    total peak performance: 40 TFLOPS

  • Hype (Score:4, Informative)

    by dh003i ( 203189 ) <.dh003i. .at. .gmail.com.> on Saturday April 20, 2002 @12:33PM (#3379455) Homepage Journal
    Remember, when they give you TFLOPS or TOPS values, they're giving you PEAK values.

    In reality, most of the time, performance is way below peak values, even for the algorithms for which the computer was designed to handle. IBM's pacific blue has a peak TFLOPS value around 3.6TFLOPS...but in reality, its usually around 1.2TFLOPS.

    There's no reason to believe this machine will be any different.

    Furthermore, the performance of this machine is likely to sink like a rock when its used outside the area it was specially designed for.

    In other words, the best supercomputers in the world are still the ones made by starbridge systems, which were bought by NASA (I believe the one NASA bought was called HAL 15, or something like that).
  • Wow... (Score:2, Funny)

    by bobdole369 ( 267463 )
    This particular picture (from the above links.) is mildly disturbing.

    [jamstec.go.jp]
    http://www.es.jamstec.go.jp/esc/gallary/images/0 3. jpg

    "I'm sorry, I can't do that Dave...."

  • 35 teraflops. Wow! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Utopia ( 149375 ) on Saturday April 20, 2002 @01:13PM (#3379598)
    This is faster than the SETI network.
    SETI operates at 17 teraflops [berkeley.edu], but at a cost of only $500000.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

Working...