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HIGH PERFORMANCE COMPUTING


Exascale ambitions


AS THE RACE FOR EXASCALE REACHES ITS FINAL MILESTONES BEFORE THE FIRST DEPLOYMENTS OF THE EXASCALE CLASS SYSTEMS ACROSS THE WORLD, ROBERT ROE TAKES A LOOK AT THE PROJECTS BEHIND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THESE RECORD BREAKING SUPERCOMPUTERS


and the Technology and Innovation Hub. Fugaku will support researchers across these disciplines, as well as industrial and academic partners across the world. ‘We had to build a machine that was


Fugaku is the fastest supercomputer in the world as of 2021, developed with both


performance and generality in mind with the ‘applications first’ philosophy. The supercomputer has been developed and meticulously planned over 10 years to codesign both hardware and software to make the most efficient use of the resources available. The resulting system has been at the top of major benchmarks for the last 12 months but Satoshi Matsuoka, head of the Riken Center for Computational Science at RIKEN, explains that applications, not benchmarks, were the target. ‘Fugaku in absolute terms is the fastest


and largest supercomputer ever built,’ states Matsuoka. ‘It has been built with an applications first strategy, and as a result of being very general-purpose and highly performant at the same time, which created a very hard challenge.’ The Fugaku supercomputer is housed at RIKEN, which is a network of research centres across Japan, with main campuses in Wako, Tsukuba, Yokohama, Kobe and Harima. RIKEN’s activities can be divided into four main categories: strategic research centres, research infrastructure centres, the Cluster for Pioneering Research and the Cluster for Science,


16 Scientific Computing World Summer 2021


very fast, but also it had to be general purpose. It could not use a special purpose accelerator, due to the broad range of applications and users we had to make it very general purpose – and these can be quite contradictory goals,’ notes Matsuoka. ‘We achieved this, however, by participation of all the interested parties here in Japan as a national project taking high risks. As a result we came up with this A64FX chip co-developed between Fujitsu and RIKEN which is the fastest chip built for HPC in that it is two to three times faster than the latest Intel offerings in HPC across many applications. At the same time it is several times more power-efficient while also being a general-purpose Arm processor.’ ‘To put Fugaku in context, it is equivalent


to about 20 million smartphones that run the same code,’ states Matsuoka. ‘This means that if you have one or two Fugaku’s it is equivalent to the entire IT of Japan.’ While achieving the benchmark target was not a goal of the teams behind Fugaku, they did want to ensure wide-ranging application performance and to speed up compared to the previous generation of RIKEN supercomputers (the K computer). ‘Of course, achieving peak flops or some benchmark was not our priority,’ stressed Matsuoka. ‘In fact, we identified important applications for sustainability for the nation and for the world in areas like healthcare, environmental disaster, materials and manufacturing which had been running on the K computer. The goal was to achieve a large speed-up over the performance of the K computer and some applications have achieved this magnitude running more than 200 times faster.


General purpose performance The development of this new HPC processor is a huge achievement but the success did not stop there as there are several other innovations which


make this supercomputer deliver world beating performance. Chief among those innovations was the development of the Tofu Interconnect to support the bandwidth and sustained performance of this hugely complex machine.


‘While the A64 chip is a huge success


story, the interconnect in the Fugaku system also plays a large role in delivering sustained performance in real-world applications,’ said Matsuoka. ‘The interconnect has both the network interface and the switches all embedded. That is to say that there are no external switches on Fugaku. Rather, each CPU port has a 10 port switch so there are 160,000 switches in Fugaku, equalling the number of nodes, or 1.6 million ports.’


@scwmagazine | www.scientific-computing.com


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