Feasibility Study for the Next Generation Supercomputer ‘Fugaku NEXT’ Is Under Way

By Katsuya Nishi

October 13, 2022

Two years have passed since the debut of Fugaku, Japan’s top supercomputer, and it is already known for its numerous achievements in simulations for Covid-19 measures. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has already started to consider the next supercomputer after “Fugaku,” and this fiscal year it began accepting applications for feasibility studies for “Fugaku NEXT” (to investigate feasibility, profitability, etc.; known as FS). In July, MEXT announced the four teams selected for the FS (there were seven applications). The FS began in August 2022 and continues through the end of Japan’s 2023 fiscal year (i.e., March 31, 2024 calendar year).

The overall budget is 450 million yen ($3.07 million USD). The FS this time seems to be a little different from the emphasis on computational science and domestic production that has been oriented toward the “K computer” and the “Fugaku” project. In particular, it seems to be strongly conscious of Society 5.0, which is being promoted by the Japanese government 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.”

The four selected teams are as follows:

Team Representative Institution
System Research & Study team Riken
System Research & Study team Kobe University
New Computation Principles Research & Study Team Keio University
Operation Technology Research & Study Team Tokyo University

System Research & Study team >> Representative Institution: Riken

The team is divided into three groups: “Architecture Study,” “System Software Library Study,” and “Application Study. The “Architecture Study” group consists of Riken, Fujitsu, AMD, and Intel, but not Arm. The “System Software and Library Research” group consists of Riken, Tohoku University, University of Tsukuba, Osaka University, and Kyushu University. The “Application Research” group consists of eight organizations, including Hokkaido University, Yokohama City University, National Institute for Materials Science, and the Japan

Other “collaborating organizations” participating in this System Research & Study team include DDN, Nvidia, and Hewlett-Packard. The total research budget for FY2022 is 150 million yen. The project leader is Masaaki Kondo, a professor at Keio University who also serves as team leader of the Next Generation High Performance Architecture Research Team at the Riken Center for Computational Science.

System Research & Study team >> Representative Institution: Kobe University

There is another identical “System Research and Study” team in this FS project. The representative organization is Kobe University, and the project leader is Professor Junichiro Makino, who is well known for his development of GRAPE, a computer dedicated to the many-body problem of gravity. The core of the team also includes Preferred Networks, whose AI processor, MN-Core, was developed in collaboration with Professor Makino. As one might imagine, the team’s goal is to develop an AI architecture centered on many-core processors. In contrast, the Systems Research Team, represented by Riken, is likely to develop next-generation many-core processors centered on conventional general-purpose processors.

Members of this team include the University of Tokyo, the National Institute of Informatics, the University of Aizu, Matsue National College of Technology, and Juntendo University. Juntendo University plans to open a School of Health Data Science in 2023, and Ryutaro Himeno, who was involved in the development of the “K computer,” is a professor there. The total research budget for FY2022 is 150 million yen.

New Calculation Principles Research and Study Team >> Representative Institution: Keio University

The purpose of this team is described as follows: “To study the feasibility of linking the next flagship system with quantum computers and other new computational principles (e.g., neurocomputers). The representative organization is Keio University, and the members are Riken, Kyushu University, Tohoku University, NEC, and Fujitsu as a cooperating organization. All of these members are organizations that are developing quantum computing technology, so they are all suitable for the team’s purpose. Keio University, in particular, has a quantum computing center in collaboration with IBM.

The project leader of this team is Professor Hideharu Amano of the Faculty of Science and Technology at Keio University. Professor Amano is a well-known researcher in computer architecture and has long been developing dynamically reconfigurable multi-core type computers. It is interesting to note that Prof. Amano is also a good colleague of Dr. Kondo, the project leader of the Systems Research and Study Team, for which Riken serves as the representative organization, and they jointly run a laboratory at Keio University. It is expected to see what kind of synergy effects will emerge in the future. The research budget for FY2022 is 50 million yen.

Operational Technology Research & Study Team >> Representative Institution: Tokyo University

The purpose of the “Operational Technology Research and Study Team” is to “examine items that should be considered as evaluation indicators for operational technology as a platform that supports the evolution of digital twin technology, creates world-leading research results, promotes Society 5.0, and contributes to the achievement of the SDGs, and to propose goals to be achieved and their priorities.” The representative organization is the University of Tokyo, and the project representative is Professor Toshihiro Hanawa of the Information Technology Center. The team members are Riken, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and National Institute of Informatics, with the cooperation of Nagoya University, Osaka University, Kyushu University, and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. Research budget for FY2022 is 100 million yen.

These four teams will explore the direction of the next-generation flagship computer following Fugaku. The results of this feasibility study will determine whether or not actual development will begin in FY2024. The future developments of each team will be the focus of attention.

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