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What is the value of a supercomputer? Everyone knows the word, but few can explain clearly what a supercomputer is and what it can do. This is one of the most significant missions of the ACCJ’s High Performance Computing Task Force.

A key component of high-performance computing (HPC), a supercomputer is capable of performing a large number of calculations at great speeds for various purposes, and of simulating results that cannot be achieved through experiment. Supercomputer simulations, along with theorization and experiments, are indispensable tools for strengthening cutting-edge science and technology. The information they provide helps boost industrial competitiveness and build a safe and secure nation, among other things. Such simulations can also predict and estimate damage caused by earthquakes, tsunami, and vehicle collisions.

For instance, unless a new car is actually manufactured, it is impossible to assess its real capacity and safety. However, if a problem is found after the car is built, it is too late. Therefore the automaker must confirm capacity, quality, and safety during the design stage. A supercomputer allows designers to “drive” the car and collect data for the purpose of improving these key areas. In the case of collision, the amount of time and money required to identify and solve safety issues can be dramatically reduced by simulating the crash instead of destroying actual cars.

Categorized, current trends in the supercomputing industry include:

1. Numerical Intensive
Today’s fastest supercomputer is capable of about 30 trillion calculations per second. The industry has a goal of 30-fold improvement by 2020. This brings with it huge challenges in processor design, memory, networking, packaging, reliability, energy efficiency, and software.

One example is the design trade-off between the reliability and energy efficiency of a supercomputer consuming 20 megawatts of power. A new approach considers the application of machine learning to artificial specific intelligence as a solution.
R&D and engineering in these fields can contribute to advanced economic activity in participating countries.

2. Data Intensive
In the United States, the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) have recently emphasized the importance of the data-intensive side of supercomputing. They point to the growing need to be better at extracting and analyzing the enormous data produced by supercomputers. The goal is to improve overall scientific and engineering discovery and design workflow or processes. There are new opportunities here.

3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The recent win over top human Go players by Google’s AlphaGo AI system, developed by British computer company DeepMind, relied on complete information AI.

Another recent development is the American AI program Claudico. Running on an SGI system similar to the one at Japan’s forward-looking Institute of Statistical Mathematics (ISM), Claudico stood up to the world’s top poker players.

These developments are emerging as the benchmark for the next challenge: incomplete information AI.

R&D and engineering for software and hardware in fields ranging from expert systems, machine learning, and data mining to artificial specific intelligence, artificial general intelligence, and corresponding autonomous systems have wide-ranging industrial applications as well as economic and national implications.

Since September 2015, when our task force was established, we have been engaging in advocacy through the Diet Doorknock, visiting Japanese government ministries, Diet members, senior government officials, etc. In particular, a priority of the task force is to hold events together with the Japanese government and domestic HPC companies to educate multi-stakeholders on the importance and value of supercomputing. Therefore, we continue to proactively reach out to our multi-stakeholders about our HPC educational campaigns, as well as to increase the HPC task force’s circle of influence.

Tokuo Kikuchi is vice-chair High Performance Computing Task Force; and director, legal and government affairs, SGI Japan, Ltd.
Supercomputer simulations … help boost industrial competitiveness and build a safe and secure nation.