Researchers at Japan’s RIKEN institute have formally announced that its supercomputer, Figaku, is fully operational with the ribbon finally cut for shared experimental use.

Trial use of the world’s fastest system began in April 2020, mainly on projects aiming to accelerate research results and projects in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Research Organization for Information Science and Technology (RIST) has been charged with selecting projects based on applications to promote the wide use of the system. It recently selected the first 74 projects that will be implemented from April 2021. In addition, RIST is calling for proposals in several categories, and researchers who are interested are invited to apply here

Fugaku, which is currently installed at the RIKEN Center for Computational Science (R-CCS) in Kobe, Japan, has been developed under a national plan to design Japan’s next generation flagship supercomputer and to carry out a wide range of applications that will address high-priority social and scientific issues. It will be put to use in applications aimed at achieving the Society 5.0 plan, by running applications in areas that include drug discovery and personalized and preventive medicine.

Regarding the start of shared use, RIKEN President Hiroshi Matsumoto said, “This is just the beginning for Fugaku, and we are looking forward to seeing it truly demonstrate its tremendous potential. Above all, Fugaku is a key national technology, and we will manage it responsibly with the goal to achieve research results that will help build a long-lived and healthy society, disaster mitigation, and better energy use, with the ultimate goal to establish the government’s vision of an ultra-smart Society 5.0. In addition, we are aiming to provide researchers around the world with the best possible computing resources and usage environment.”

Fugaku is powered by ARM A64FX chips, of which it has 7,630,848 cores. When tested against the HPL supercomputing benchmark, it set a world record of 442 petaflops, and against the high-performance computing artificial intelligence workload (HPC-AI) benchmark it maxed out at 2.0 exaflops, beating the previous record (also held by Fugaku) of 1.4 exaflops set in June 2020. According to Top 500, Fugaku’s HPC-AI benchmark was “the first benchmark measurements above one exaflop for any precision on any type of hardware.”

In terms of the type of research Fugaku will be working on, some projects have already returned results, including working on COVID-19 solutions like mask efficiency and drug efficacy.

Fugaku has also been used jointly by the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Fujitsu Laboratories to analyze cancer genes; the pair announced in November that Fugaku had allowed them to fully analyze cancer genes in less than a day – a process that used to take months.