The World’s Fastest Computer to Join Fight Against COVID-19

In our previous blog posts we have highlighted in the work of the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) that High Performance Computing (HPC) resources are an invaluable research tool.

Much like their counterparts and colleagues around the world, Japan’s top scientists are now refocusing and accelerating their research efforts towards addressing the coronavirus emergency. The RIKEN Centre for Computational Science and Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) have hence announced their intent to commission parts of The Fugaku Supercomputer ahead of its scheduled ‘on date’, to help in the fight against COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes it.

The Fugaku is currently under development at RIKEN, Kobe, Japan. They announced in April of this year that installation of the equipment is now complete, comprising of over 400 server racks housing a total of 158,976 Fujitsu A64FX processors, each with 48 cores accessible for HPC tasks and additional cores for operating system processes and network software stacks. It will be fully online and available to the public until next year. Due to the unprecedented research effort currently ongoing to find therapies and presentative solutions for COVID-19 however, RIKEN and MEXT have made the decision to make part of The Fugaku computational resources available to researchers whilst the installation of the remainder of the computer is continued.

The Fugaku is the successor to the K supercomputer, also at RIKEN —which was ranked as the world’s fastest in 2011, and the first computer to top 10 petaFLOPS, it was decommissioned in August last year to make way for The Fugaku— with an aim to be around 100 time faster, and projected to operate at the exascale under certain mathematical conditions. The exascale relates to HPCs which can perform one quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) floating-point operations per second. In context, by hand a human would have to complete a calculation every second for 31,688,765,000 years to reproduce one second of exascale CPU time.

RIKEN are currently accepting applications for CPU time and priority use of The Fugaku, in the following areas:
(1) Research seeking to reveal the characteristics of the new coronavirus
(2) Research aiming to identify compounds that can be used as therapeutic agents against the coronavirus
(3) Research that could help improve the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
(4) Projects that can reveal insights into the spread of infections and its socio-economic impact
(5) Other projects that have the potential to contribute to countermeasures against the new coronavirus

See the RIKEN Coronavirus page for application information.