ARM-powered Fugaku is now the world’s fastest supercomputer

JC Torres - Jun 23, 2020, 5:11 am CDT
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ARM-powered Fugaku is now the world’s fastest supercomputer

It is Apple’s time in the spotlight again with WWDC happening this week but it seems that ARM is also having a good PR time as well. Cupertino just unveiled its grand strategy to move its devices to its own ARM-based silicon and now the company behind the most-used mobile chip design is celebrating yet another milestone. A supercomputer in Japan has just ranked as the top supercomputer on three lists and ARM Limited (a.k.a. ARM Holdings) is wasting no time boasting how its chips are behind that rather historical achievement.

While it isn’t the first time a Japanese supercomputer has risen to the top of the lists, it has been a while since it took the crown in 2011. More importantly, it is the first time in the history of these rankings that a single supercomputer ranked number one in all three lists of Top500, HPCG, and Graph500. To put it in an even bigger perspective, there are 226 Chinese supercomputers and 114 American supercomputers in that Top500 list while only 30 come from Japan.

The supercomputer, named Fugaku, is jointly developed by FIKEN and Fujitsu in Kobe, Japan. It uses ARM-based Fujitsu A64FX CPUs forming 158,976 nodes. As far as performance goes, Fugaku was able to achieve 415.53 petaflops, the unit of processing speed equivalent to a quadrillion floating point operations per second (FLOPS). In comparison, its closest rival, the US Summit supercomputer, only got to 148.6 petaflops.

It is definitely a huge achievement not just for the Japanese supercomputing segment but also for ARM. While the effects in the consumer market won’t be felt directly, it does give ARM very prominent bragging rights about the capabilities of the computing architecture. Most people probably see ARM chips only in mobile and embedded devices, unaware of their commercial use in servers and, as seen here, supercomputers.

Fugaku’s achievement does bode well for Japan’s IT industry as well as the country’s “Society 5.0” thrust unveiled last year. The supercomputer will power applications related to AI and machine learning but will also be immediately be employed in the fight against COVID-19.


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