Japan could take top honors for the world's fastest supercomputer if it goes ahead with a plan to begin research next year on a new machine that would operate 73 times faster than IBM's current record holder, the government said Monday.
The American Blue Gene/L system supercomputer developed by International Business Machine Corp. at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, is currently the world's fastest.
That machine is capable of 136.8 teraflops, or 136.8 trillion calculations per second, according to Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Japan wants to develop a supercomputer that can operate at 10 petaflops, or 10 quadrillion calculations per second, which is 73 times faster than the Blue Gene, an official of the ministry said on condition of anonymity.
Kyodo News reported that the total cost of the project would be between 80 billion yen and 100 billion yen ($714 million to 893 million) and the ministry will request 10 billion yen ($89 million) for the next fiscal year's budget.
The ministry official could not confirm the figures, saying it has yet to reach a formal decision on the project, which is expected by the end of August.
But he said that if the budget for next year is approved, the ministry hopes to complete the next-generation supercomputer sometime in fiscal 2010, which ends in March 2011.
Japan's Earth Simulator supercomputer, introduced in 2002, had been the world's fastest until 2004, when the IBM's Blue Gene took the title, he said.
Currently, the Earth Simulator, at a speed of 35.9 teraflops, is ranked fourth after the IBM's two Blue Gene systems and NASA's Columbia system, all in the United States, according to the top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers, released at the International Supercomputing Conference held in June in Heidelberg, Germany.
The Earth Simulator is used to track global sea temperatures, rainfall and crustal movement to predict natural disasters over the next few centuries.
The ministry wants to use the planned supercomputer for a wider use such as simulating the formation of galaxy and the interactions between a medicine and the human body.