Ultra High Performance Supercomputer By Korea

According to a report this morning from a business newspaper inside the country, a recent “Ultra-High Performance Computing Development Forum” yielded news that a feasibility study has been commissioned to usher in a new wave of Korean supercomputers under the SuperIT Korean 2020 initiative.

In a quote given by a spokesperson for the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Korea will be well served by developing some of their own technologies for efficient extreme-scale computing. As he told Business Korea, “Tianhe-2, the fastest supercomputer, consumes as much power as that needed for operating two nuclear power plants. As our nation is a latecomer, the odds will be in our favor if we start to approach the problem of power consumption first, for which we have a competitive advantage, and then focus on the development of a supercomputer capable of processing other applications, different from existing ones.”

These comments are interesting on a number of fronts. First, that South Korea’s ambitions, at least as gauged by the statement, are centered around competitive advantage, particularly with China and it’s #1 Tianhe-2 machine. Second, this is a bit of an exaggeration of the power consumed by Tianhe-2, but the spokesperson is bent on the efficiency angle.

Further, the idea that South Korea is most interested in efficiency in front of pure floating point capability is noteworthy, especially considering the significant weight of Samsung, which is based in South Korea and operates its own Top 500 class supercomputers. Much of Samsung’s R&D business is centered around efficiency at the micro-level given their emphasis on consumer mobile devices, but they do have the capability to make processors for low-power supercomputers—something that is yet again gaining momentum with ARM and other ultra-efficient supercomputing options. The one site that might sound more familiar over time, for those who follow Top 500 supercomputers, is the #201 slot where KISTI sits with its (very unique to the rest of the list) Sun Blade system—there’s a term many haven’t heard in a while). In addition to Samsung, this is where much of the country’s computer science braintrust is seated—and where its next “ultra-scale” supercomputing might rest as well.

Korean companies using HPC were in the news here at The Platform just recently with the announcement of Hyundai using the #2 Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Lab for key material sciences breakthroughs. One might suspect that the company is taking notes about what systems and software are performing best—and passing those up the chain inside South Korea to lend to better decision-making about what role HPC might play in industrial, as well as research competitiveness.

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