A supercomputer is an ultra-fast computer that can be used for large-scale scientific calculations across a wide range of fields. Simulations using supercomputers have become vitally important as a third method of research and development, alongside experiments and theory. These supercomputer simulations can be extremely effective in a variety of situations in which experimental approaches are not applicable. Such situations include, for example, those where the object of study is too large or complex for analytical solutions, or in which experimental observation would require excessive time or high cost, or involve extreme or dangerous conditions (for instance radioactivity or high temperature). Simulations are also useful in cases where the subject of study is not amenable to experiment, such as in the case of the natural environment, geographic regions, or societies.
Supercomputers are now used in weather forecasting, in the design of cars and aircraft for analyzing structures and fluid flows, and for a wide range of other purposes. They are indispensable for the future of science and technology and the competitiveness of industry.
Comprehensive and high-level electronics skills in high-performance, low power dissipation semiconductor technology, optical communication technologies, network technologies and quality control technology, are all required in supercomputer development. Japan is at the top of the world in this field, but continued research development is needed to maintain and improve the country’s technological capacity.
The K computer brings together leading-edge technologies, including ultrafast and energy-efficient CPUs and a network capable of an immense amount of interconnectivity for high-performance and exceptional reliability. Installation of the supercomputer began in September 2010, and by the end of August 2011 all 864 racks had been delivered and installed. In the TOP500 ranking of the world’s fastest supercomputers, the K computer ranked first for two consecutive reporting periods, June 2011 and November 2011, also winning top honors in all four divisions of the HPC Challenge, and taking home the Gordon Bell award, as proof of its performance in real-world applications.