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

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?