Earlier this month, the 48th TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers revealed that China and the US once again dominated the results. The Asian country’s Sunway TaihuLight machine continues to hold the number one position with a Linpack benchmark of 93 petaflops, but it could soon face a challenge from Japan, which is planning to build a supercomputer capable of reaching 130 petaflops as early as next year.
When it comes to countries with the total number of supercomputers in the TOP500, Japan sits in fourth place with 27. Germany is one place ahead with 32 entries, while the US and China both have 171. But Japan does hold two spots in the top ten – its 13.5 petaflop Oakforest-PACS computer is at number 6 and the 10.5 petaflop k computer is ranked the world's seventh fastest.
But this isn’t enough for Japan, which in recent years has lost some of its reputation as a tech leader to other Asian nations such as South Korea and China. The country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will spend 19.5 billion yen ($173 million) on a supercomputer that can reach 130 petaflops - 37 more than Sunway TaihuLight.
"As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast," said Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, where the computer will be built.
It’s hoped that the AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure computer, or ABCI, will act as a research platform for the country’s manufacturers, helping them in the development of self-driving cars, robots, and medical diagnostics.
Reuters reports that ABCI will be made available for a fee to Japan’s corporations, who currently outsource data crunching to overseas firms such as Google and Microsoft. Bidding for the project has begun and will close on Dec. 8.