18 February 2010

How Japan fell behind in supercomputing

One hindrance has been the controversy of Japan favoring vector over scalar technologies. But the biggest blow was NEC's withdrawal from the largest super-computing project, with Hitachi soon following suit.


Scientists at RIKEN, Japan's premier research institute, are reeling from the unexpected news that corporate electronics giants NEC and Hitachi have pulled out of the country's next-generation supercomputing project. NEC, which posted a net loss of ¥300 billion (US$3.1 billion) for the financial year ending in March 2009, said last week that it could not support the investment needed to take the supercomputer's design to the manufacturing phase.

It is a blow for a country struggling to retain its reputation as a leader in computer technology. It is also a setback for vector computing, which has been struggling to retain its slim presence in the supercomputing world. As originally conceived, the machine would have incorporated both vector and scalar technologies.Getty

Japan had aimed to start operating its next-generation supercomputer next year and complete it by 2012. Designed to run at 9 petaflops, or 1015 floating point operations per second, Japan hopes the device will regain the title of world's fastest computer — currently held by an IBM-built machine at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, nicknamed Roadrunner.

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