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Technology

Supercomputing for $10K? NEC says it can do it

Processor cards put big data crunching in reach for small businesses

NEC supercomputers usually carry price tags in the millions of dollars,

TOKYO -- NEC will offer supercomputer technology in the $10,000 range, just a fraction of the cost of its standard wares, lowering the barriers to entry for smaller companies that want to crunch big data.

The Japanese company in January begins selling individual processor cards equipped with core components including a CPU. While its supercomputers usually come packaged with multiple processors installed in a server, offering cards a la carte lets buyers save money by using off-the-shelf servers. NEC expects demand from smaller businesses that can forgo top-of-the-line speed.

Supercomputers built by NEC in-house usually carry price tags in the millions of dollars, with even lower-end models costing around $100,000. The individual cards reduce performance, but remain capable of handling tasks such as simulations at speeds two to 10 times as fast as standard computers at the same price point, according to the company.

NEC supercomputers are particularly good at processing large volumes of data, making them useful for applications such as material analysis and simulations for product development. They are used by large businesses and organizations at home and abroad including the DWD, Germany's national meteorological service.

Though compatriot Fujitsu's Fugaku supercomputer is the world's fastest, Fujitsu models are used by just a few big companies, such as drugmakers, with prices generally running around $1 million.

As technologies such as artificial intelligence take off, NEC anticipates a wider range of applications for supercomputers, including in security and retail, where they could be used to predict demand. The company targets 10 billion yen ($95.9 million) in sales for the business in the next three years.

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