ARM officially powers the world's fastest supercomputer

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Timofeev Vladimir)

Move aside AMD, Nvidia, Intel and other exotic chip manufacturers - there’s a new kid on the block. A Japanese supercomputer (opens in new tab) has snatched the crown of world’s fastest machine, displacing incumbent leader IBM Summit. 

Built on ARM-based Fujitsu A64FX processors (opens in new tab), the Fugaku now leads the Top500 (opens in new tab) supercomputer rankings, which scores machines based on their performance against the High Performance Linpack (HPL) benchmark.

Fugaku achieved an HPL score of 415.5 petaflops (almost three times as fast as IBM Summit (opens in new tab)) as well as topping the rankings for Graph 500, HPL-AI and HPCH workloads - a feat never before achieved by a single supercomputer.

World's fastest supercomputer

Developed jointly by Fujitsu and research institution RIKEN, Fugaku (opens in new tab) achieves its extreme level of performance thanks to Fujitsu’s A64FX microprocessor, based on ARM architecture. The CPU has 48 cores, a theoretical peak performance of 3.38 TFLOPS, runs at 2.2GHz and has 32GB HBM2 memory on the die itself.

Now imagine packing more than 152,000 of those into nearly 400 42U racks, totalling almost 7.3 million cores with a combined memory of 4.87 petabytes. In certain scenarios, Fujitsu's supercomputer reaches a peak performance of over 1,000 petaflops (one exaflop) - a landmark barrier.

ARM processors feature in only four of the top 500 supercomputers, and Fugaku is the first ARM-based machine to take the number one position.

The machine is also the first supercomputer developed in Japan to top the speed rankings, a crown usually passed back and forth between China- and US-based firms. The current list consists of 226 Chinese supercomputers, 114 American and 30 Japanese machines.

Installed at RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Fugaku is set to officially go into operation next year. However, it has already been used in recent months to assess the viability of Japan’s contact-tracing app and map out the spread of SARS in a bid to assist the coronavirus effort.

Overall, the aggregate performance of the leading 500 supercomputers sits at 2.23 exaflops, up from 1.65 exaflops in January. Fugaku accounts for the majority of that increase, as a new entry to the list.

The total volume of new entries to the list, meanwhile, was down to 51 - a record low since the Top500 rankings were first compiled in 1993.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.