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For the first time, an ARM-based supercomputer is the fastest in the world

Published Jun 23rd, 2020 5:50PM EDT
ARM Supercomputer
Image: Apple

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  • Following Apple’s introduction of ARM-based Macs, an ARM-based supercomputer recently topped the Top500 list of fastest supercomputers
  • The supercomputer in question is called Fugaku and is located in Kobe, Japan.
  • Fugaku is currently being used for coronavirus research purposes but will be used for a range of other endeavors starting in April of next year.

In what would have been a bombshell of a revelation had it not leaked out months earlier, Tim Cook yesterday officially announced that future Macs will feature Apple’s own ARM-based chips. In turn, Apple’s relationship with Intel, which has been ongoing for more than a decade at this point, will come to an end within two years.

Naturally, Apple executives yesterday made a point of touting the performance gains Apple silicon will bring to the company’s Mac lineup. And the good news is that the first ARM-based Macs will arrive later this year, which is to say we won’t have to wait long to see what Apple’s chip design team can do in the desktop realm.

With ARM-based processors making headlines this week, it’s worth noting that an ARM-based supercomputer recently took the top spot on the list of Top500 fastest supercomputers.

The Verge reports:

A Japanese supercomputer has taken the top spot in the biannual Top500 supercomputer speed ranking. Fugaku, a computer in Kobe co-developed by Riken and Fujitsu, makes use of Fujitsu’s 48-core A64FX system-on-chip. It’s the first time a computer based on ARM processors has topped the list.

Fugaku’s title was announced earlier this week at ISC High Performance 2020 Digital, a high-performance computing conference that draws attendees from all across the globe.

As to raw performance, the Top500 organization notes:

The new top system, Fugaku, turned in a High Performance Linpack (HPL) result of 415.5 petaflops, besting the now second-place Summit system by a factor of 2.8x.  Fugaku, is powered by Fujitsu’s 48-core A64FX SoC, becoming the first number one system on the list to be powered by ARM processors. In single or further reduced precision, which are often used in machine learning and AI applications, Fugaku’s peak performance is over 1,000 petaflops (1 exaflops). The new system is installed at RIKEN Center for Computational Science (R-CCS) in Kobe, Japan.

So what does one do with a supercomputer with specs that seemingly defy reality? Well, you use it to help battle a global pandemic of course. Specifically, the Fugaku is currently being used for research on the coronavirus. According to Riken, the machine is being used to help with “diagnostics, therapeutics, and simulations of the spread of the virus.”

Coronavirus research aside, Riken notes that the machine, starting next year, will be used for a number of additional purposes, including drug discovery, natural disaster simulation, preventive medicine, material development, and more.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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