Japan aims for world's fastest computer by 2010

Japan wants to reclaim the processing laurels from the US with a supercomputer 75 times faster than today's champion

Government officials in Japan said on Monday that they are planning to build the world's fastest supercomputer, according to a report in The Japan Times on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology expects to complete the system by 2010, when it will run at a maximum speed of 10 petaflops — 10 quadrillion floating-point operations a second. The current record holder is the IBM supercomputer Blue Gene/L, which at 137 teraflops is around seventy times slower.

The Ministry estimates that the project will cost up to ¥100bn (£500m), and says that the machine will be used for research into drugs, weather systems and cosmology. The funds for the computer have not yet been made available, but if funds are allocated the project will start next April.

Japan hosted the world's fastest computer, the 36 teraflop Earth Simulator, for two-and-a-half years until last September when it was overtaken by Blue Gene/L's first incarnation. Earth Simulator is now in fourth place behind Blue Gene/L and two other American computers. IBM and Cray have both said that they will be producing petaflop-class computers by 2010 at the latest, with IBM suggesting that their machine may be available much sooner than that.