SC09 Rumours were circulating around late last week ahead of the SC09 supercomputing trade show in Portland, Oregon, that the Japanese government might severely curtail its funding of HPC projects. This comes after a panel of axe-wielding government bureaucrats charged with removing waste from the Japanese government budget recommended cancelling.
This could deal a substantial blow to server and chip maker Fujitsu, which had secured the entire 10 petaflops Project Keisoku supercomputer deal all to itself. NEC and Hitachi backed out of the $1.2bn project earlier this year.
With Project Keisoku, the Japanese government wanted to forge a hybrid vector-scalar machine that scaled to 10 petaflops. NEC and Hitachi were to co-design a new vector engine and system, but only got as far as completing a prototype and only received the funding for that portion of their work. Fujitsu was commissioned to create Sparc engines to do the scalar work.
In May - just as Fujitsu was talking up its "Venus" eight-core Sparc64-VIIIfx processor, which was to be used in the scalar part of the machine - NEC and Hitachi said there was too much red ink for them to cope with to manufacture the Keisuko super and walked away from the contract. The Japanese government mulled this for a bit, then decided that it would build a massively parallel and scalar Sparc box with Fujitsu alone.
This made Fujitsu's top brass pretty ebullient. At the same time, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said it would build a 200 teraflops cluster, based on Intel's 'Nehalem EP' Xeon 5500 processors, as embodied in Fujitsu's Dynamic Cube blade servers. It also would get two Sparc-based clusters that were to be the foundations for the Keisuko software development effort. The Sparc machines consisted of a 1.92 teraflops Sparc Enterprise M9000 and a 320-node cluster of single-core FX1 servers rated at 12 teraflops; both presumably run Solaris.
The Project Keisoku 10 petaflops machine was to be installed at the Rikagaku Kenkyusho (Riken) research lab in Kobe, Japan, and was supposed to be operational in early 2012. If the Japanese government does cancel the Keisuko project, the 200 teraflops machine that the JAEA is acquiring will be the most powerful box in the country.
According to a report in Computerworld, the Government Revitalization Unit - which was formed by the recently elected Democratic Party of Japan government - took only an hour to come to the conclusion that the Keisoku super to be installed at Riken should be nixed. This is despite the serious cash that has already been spent on its development.
Now the Fujitsu lobbyists have a more difficult task than building a 10 petaflops supercomputer: convincing a government that is trying to slash budget expenditures to do so elsewhere. ®