April 1, 2014 3:35 am JST

Supercomputer network seen sharpening Japan's industrial edge

SHOGO MATSUSHITA, Nikkei staff writer

TOKYO -- A powerful network of supercomputers will be built in Japan over the next decade, centered around a next-generation exascale machine and coordinated with projects designed to boost industrial use of the technology.

     This policy vision, laid out by Japan's Ministry of Science and Technology, is expected to unfold by 2020.

     The ministry plans to begin developing a world-class exascale supercomputer in fiscal 2014. As a measure of computational performance, an exaflop is 1 quintillion floating point operations per second, so an exascale machine will be 100 times more powerful than Riken's acclaimed K supercomputer.

     But computational sciences are advancing so quickly that a single supercomputer system cannot precisely accommodate every field of study. Consequently, the ministry intends to build a supercomputer network, with the exascale machine at the apex and a number of other supercomputers serving as support facilities, each specializing in a certain field such as fluid dynamics or big data analysis.

     The ministry will select the supercomputers from proposals submitted by universities, government agencies and other experts, and hopes to have the network up and running by around 2020.

     In addition to advancing the frontiers of science, the supercomputer network should also help boost the competitiveness of industrial Japan. To promote its use by industry, the ministry aims to push the development of commercial software applications that can run on the machines.

     And to nurture a pool of professionals knowledgeable in these areas, the ministry will have universities prepare academic courses in different specialties.