Fugaku, the world's fastest supercomputer, steers toward ‘Society 5.0’

November 15, 2021 | 5 minute read
Mitch Wagner
Senior Writer, Oracle
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The team that built Fugaku, the world’s fastest supercomputer, sees that triumph as a step toward building “Society 5.0”—solving some of the world’s biggest problems with the assistance of digital technology.

"We will transform society and solve all these difficult sustainability issues—such as climate, longevity, economic differences, creating a carbon-neutral society—using a plethora of information technology—essentially digital transformation in all those areas," says Satoshi Matsuoka, director of the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, which built Fugaku.

Japan’s Council for Society, Technology and Innovation defines "Society 5.0" as a “human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space.”

Achieving Society 5.0 means supercomputers need to get out of the ivory tower. Until now, supercomputers have been specialized machines with limited connectivity. With Fugaku, RIKEN is making supercomputing available for a variety of applications.

And to fully achieve the Society 5.0 vision, supercomputers will need to join the cloud.

Satoshi Matsuoka, director of the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan,

"We believe that supercomputers will not be isolated like in the old days, just crunching numbers, but they will be an integral part of the infrastructure, and grow in capacity and performance," Matsuoka says, speaking with Taylor Newill, Oracle Senior Director, Cloud Engineering, in a recent video interview.

A source of national pride

In June, Fugaku took the top spot for the fourth time consecutively in the TOP500 competition for world's fastest supercomputer, beating out entrants from the United States and China. Fugaku, codeveloped by RIKEN and Fujitsu, achieved an HPL benchmark score of 442 Pflop/s, beating out the number two supercomputer, IBM's Summit, by 3X.

Scoring the crown not once but four times has been a source of national pride, says Matsuoka. "In this time of difficulty, it has boosted the morale of the Japanese population quite a bit," he says. Fugaku is one name for Mt. Fuji, the iconic Japanese peak.

Fugaku isn't just more powerful than its predecessors—it's fundamentally different. Previous Japanese machines were specialized devices. For example, the Earth Simulator, which went online in 2002, was intended specifically for use in climate sciences. But Fugaku and its predecessor—RIKEN's K computer, completed in 2012—are general-purpose machines.

At the outset of the Fugaku design process, RIKEN sought requirements from major stakeholders working on sustainability goals, such as energy, climate, medicine, pharma, manufacturing, and basic science. Fugaku is optimized to run one application in each of nine focus areas. Although Fugaku has only been online a short time, it's already been put to work on research in such diverse subjects as COVID-19, quantum physics, and predicting tsunami flooding.

"The objectives were not only that we achieve this big performance increase, but it had to have utmost generality, as if we were building this big X86 cluster," Matsuoka says.

To achieve that end, Fugaku runs ARM processors, specifically Fujitsu's ARM A64FX—158,976 CPUs in 432 racks.

However, these are not the same commodity processors used in smartphones. Fugaku uses specialized processors that provide maximum performance with minimum energy requirement and financial cost—maximum performance per watt, per chip, and per yen according to Matsuoka. While Fugaku is 40X faster than its predecessor, the K computer, it only consumes twice as much power.

Taking to the cloud

Fugaku is using Oracle Cloud Infrastructure for elastic high-performance computing (HPC) storage and to enable universities and research organizations to connect securely and at low cost through Japan's Science Information Network (SINET). Fugaku also uses Oracle Cloud Infrastructure FastConnect, a dedicated, private network connection.

Fugaku's cloud usage is still small. But in the future, the cloud will be essential to making supercomputing ubiquitous, says Matsuoka. Supercomputing will become another cloud resource, alongside storage, database, and other tools.

Commercial cloud services, such as Oracle's, will be complementary to supercomputing.  "There are things commercial cloud providers do very well, providing storage and general data services. And there are things that a supercomputer like Fugaku does, with its massive capacity and simulation capabilities, that commercial clouds can't do,” says Matsuoka. “They should all be integrated."

For example, Fugaku provides simulation capabilities for data processing to enable "digital twin" applications—real-time digital simulations of real-world objects, such as factories, airplanes, cities, and climate and weather systems. Digital twins require data collection from sensors which can produce data at a terabyte per second, requiring high-performance, high-capacity storage.

Oracle's heritage in storage and data led to its being picked by RIKEN for Fugaku. Oracle can provide long-term storage capabilities that Fugaku lacks, using the same APIs as Fugaku's, to enable automation between Fugaku and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. "We want a very smooth integration of storage tiers," Matsuoka says.

Fugaku's storage capacity is currently 150 petabytes—huge, but still relatively small compared with Fugaku's full potential. But the supercomputer has only officially been in production five months. Once researchers complete projects and expire allocations, they will need to be able to tier data into long-term storage. "We anticipate some of this data will be moving into Oracle Cloud, because that's the easiest place to put data. And for many people, there are no other places," Matsuoka says.

For the future

For now, Fugaku's users are academics, but over time, Matsuoka foresees more adoption by industry. "We want tangible results for Fugaku," Matsuoka says. Industrial users will require commercial, cloud HPC to complement Fugaku's supercomputing power.

Some industrial applications will prove unsuitable for Fugaku. That machine’s users need their applications approved as beneficial to society. Applications unsuitable for Fugaku will find homes in commercial HPC.

Likewise, Fugaku requires users to reveal information about their work; businesses requiring complete secrecy will move workloads to the commercial cloud. Fugaku and cloud HPC will need to use the same APIs to move data and applications easily. "In the future, we believe this infrastructure will be increasingly ubiquitous in the cloud," Matsuoka says. "This is technology that will immediately be adopted by cloud vendors."

And the team that built Fugaku isn’t resting.

Our passion is to design and build a next-generation Fugaku,” Matsuoka says. “ When we develop technology, we must strive for something fundamentally better, whether it is a computer, racing car, or anything else.”

Mitch Wagner

Senior Writer, Oracle

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