Supercomputers are probably the most reliable research tools for scientists and researchers. They play a very significant role in the field of computational science and a wide range of computationally intensive tasks and jobs such as in quantum mechanics, climate research, weather forecasting, molecular modeling, physical simulations, properties of chemical compounds, macro and micro molecule analysis, aerodynamics, rocket science, nuclear reactions, etc. Faster the supercomputer faster and accurate is the computational ability for research. Engineers and scientists incessantly develop better supercomputers with the advancement of time. Hence annually the supercomputers from all around the world are ranked according to their speed. This time Japanese supercomputer ‘Fugaku’ which is at the RIKEN Centre for Computational Science in Kobe has topped the list. It is a successor to the ‘K computer’ which topped the list in 2011. Fugaku will be fully functional from 2021.
This supercomputer has been mended with the Fujitsu A64FX microprocessor and the CPU has the processor architecture based on ARM version 8.2A which adopts the scalable vector extensions for supercomputers. Fugaku was aimed to be 100 times more powerful than its predecessor the ‘K computer’. It has been recorded with a speed of 415.5 petaflops in the TOP500 HPL results which is 2.8 times faster as compared to its nearest competitor ‘Summit’ by IBM. Fugaku has also topped the list of other ranking systems like the Graph 500, HPL-AI and HPCG where the supercomputers are tested on different workloads. This is the first time that any supercomputer has topped all the four ranking systems which makes it significant reliability for future purposes.
The cost of this supercomputer was estimated to be around 1 billion USD which is around 4 times more than that of its next competitor ‘Summit’. This humungous cost on the project has caused a significant controversy from many experts. According to the New York Times, similar featured exascale supercomputers will be developed in the near future with a very low cost as compared to Fugaku. There has also been heavy criticism of the government as some speculate that the government is spending way too much on this project just to be primal on the list amidst the pandemic.
Recently Fugaku is being used in the research for the drugs of Covid-19, diagnostics, and simulation of the spread of the coronavirus. It is also being used to track and improve the effectiveness of the Japanese app used for contact tracing in case of contamination. According to the Japan Times, in the latest research, the supercomputer was used to conduct molecule level simulations related to the drug for the coronavirus. A simulation on 2,128 existing drugs was made and picked dozens of other drugs that could bond easily to the proteins. This simulation was run for 10 long days. The results were quite accurate as 12 of the drugs detected by it were already undergoing clinical trials overseas. This research exalted the hopes of scientists for a remedy of the virus.
The expert team will continue their research using Fugaku and they have also announced that they will negotiate with the potential drug patent holders so that clinical trials to develop a possible drug for the virus can be carried out. This will allow starting early treatment of the infected people.
According to the experts, the supercomputer will also be likely effective to predict and study earthquakes in the future. Japan has a bad history of earthquakes since the country lies above the junction of many continental plates as well as the oceanic plates surrounded by volcanoes. Fugaku can detect chances of earthquakes which will allow the government and the locals to follow an escape plan from the natural disasters.