Fujitsu drops SPARC, turns to ARM for Post-K supercomputer

Fujitsu's SPARC-based servers might be next to make the shift

Alternative chip architectures are taking some thunder away from Intel's x86 at this week's International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt.

China's TaihuLight, which was ranked the world's fastest supercomputer, has a homegrown chip. And the ARM architecture, which dominates mobile-device chips, will appear in Fujitsu's next flagship supercomputer.

The Fujitsu system, called Post-K, will succeed the K computer that is No. 5 on the Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers.

Post-K will be installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Japan in 2020. Fujitsu will share more details about the computer on Tuesday during a session at the conference.

The K computer, which delivers 10.5 petaflops of peak performance, uses the Fujitsu-designed SPARC64 VIIIfx processor. for Post-K, Fujitsu will design an ARM chip.

In 2014, Fujitsu said it would use its SPARC Xlfx processor in the next K computer. It's not clear whether that chip will now go into an upgrade to the current K system. Fujitsu has not respond to a request for comment on that point.

The company also sells servers based on SPARC. There's a chance those might also shift to ARM, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Fujitsu already makes ARM-based microcontrollers and networking chips.

The fundamental shift in processor architecture will require big changes and investments in the silicon, software and customer support, McGregor said.

Fujitsu may have come to the conclusion that SPARC was losing its competitive edge and they had a choice to move to x86, Power or ARM. ARM processors may be the right choice for its Fujitsu's servers, which are built for infrastructure workloads, McGregor said.

"It maybe isn't a big deal to Intel, but it definitely is a notch in the playing field for one of the alternatives [to x86]," McGregor said.

Companies like Google are also looking at x86 alternatives for custom workloads. Google and Rackspace are teaming up to design a server called Zaius based on the Power9 architecture.

Intel dominates the server chip market and went into 99.2 percent of all servers in 2015, according to IDC. Computing vendors see ARM servers as a power-efficient alternative to Intel's Xeon chips but are mostly still in the testing stage. Analysts believe ARM's market share will grow over time.

Read more: The Full Nerd Episode 1: GeForce GTX 1070 and Intel's Skull Canyon NUC

There is also growing concern around large-scale supercomputers drawing megawatts of power. ARM supercomputers might be a more power-efficient alternative.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ArmFujitsusparc

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?