EVEN THOUGH it's likely the most developed country in Asia now, on a par with Japan, the English-speaking tropical city-state of Singapore was a bit behind recently when it came to supercomputing scale and use. China, Japan and Korea led the Asian race here, with even neighbouring Malaysia having larger clusters than Singapore for its oil and gas exploration.
At the same time, Japanese vendors were left behind US brands like IBM, HP or even SGI and Cray, when it came to exporting their old-time supercomputing globally - does anyone still remember the once-leading NEC SX vector machines?
Put the two together and Singapore comes back to the TOP 500 supercomputer list in a big way with the city's new leading system, the "Fuji". Located at ACRC - the A-STAR Computational Research Centre of the A-STAR science and technology reseach agency - the 370+ node dual X5570 Intel Nehalem Xeon machine, connected using Infiniband QDR, has reached 32.5 TFLOPs Rmax, or 92 per cent efficiency compared to the theoretical 35 TFLOPs Rpeak. The second most effective X86 machine after an SGI ICE, it also has somewhat improved power efficiency in its blade architecture versus the older Nehalem system.
Now, not only does ACRC get a nicely sized system, neatly set up by Fujitsu's best Tokyo crew on site, but Intel also takes the lead in the performance race at the Singapore agency's site, where the previous top score was from a large Opteron system. After all, there are almost 750 Nehalem high end chippies in there.
More importantly, Fujitsu has delivered its first supercomputer outside Japan. According to the ACRC men in charge, Dr Marek Michalewicz and Stephen Wong, the Fujitsu team did a very decent design and setup job, from tuning the Linpack software to reach the best possible score, ever important in the TOP 500 race, down to individually routing hundreds of cables for absolute neatness, as you can see on the photos. Not an easy job, speaking from my own messy supercomputer integration experience. To me, it did look cleaner, too, than many US vendor systems of similar size that I have seen.
Now, will this success embolden the Japanese vendors to go further and start again actively bidding for supercomputer deals worldwide? Maybe, Hitachi and NEC still have a lot of unique technologies and expert resources too, while Fujitsu SPARC64 took over where the Sun set, pun intended. The SPARC64 family are the only non-Intel processors that can compete against both the upcoming IBM POWER7 and Intel's EX Xeons at the very top of the high end. If every time Fujitsu does this kind of rapid and neat job, and satisfies the egos with top Linpack scores to boot, it's got a chance. µ