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January 25, 1998

SUPERCOMPUTER WAR OF WORDS HEATS UP AS NEC CLAIMS LEAD

By CBR Staff Writer

Using unfettered nationalistic language NEC Corp has issued a new challenge to US supercomputer makers by claiming it is developing the world’s fastest vector computer, performing up to 32 TFLOPS. NEC won a contract to supply the supercomputer to Japan’s Science and Technology Agency Earth Simulator Program where it will examine global environment problems and develop counter measures against natural disasters and catastrophes by running scenarios against a virtual model of the earth. NEC said, the award of the contract for the basic design of the computer underscores the commitment and contribution Japan as a nation has accepted in serving the nation, and the world in general, in finding a solution to the problems of the global environment as an issue of the greatest urgency to the survival of mankind. It is a mission NEC accepts with a sense of great pride and honor in the realization of the need for a company-wide commitment to international society. The ‘ultra’ computer is due to be delivered in 2002 and will support up to 4Tb RAM across thousands of CPUs organized in parallel. Current supercomputers such as the US Sandia Lab’s massively parallel system driven by 9,000 Intel Pentium Pro chips, perform at around 1 TFLOP. Cray Research Inc’s newest massively parallel Alpha RISC-based T3E-1200 system performs at up 2.5 TFLOPS as a single node but the company says it could already cluster several nodes together and deliver a system which performs more than 30TFLOLPS – if anyone’s got the money to pay for it that is. Japanese supercomputer makers NEC and Fujitsu Ltd, which were recently found guilty of dumping supercomputers on the US market (CI No 3,130), are currently engaged in a battle for performance bragging rights with US supercomputer builder Cray. It was Cray’s loss of a $35m supercomputer contract at a US government research facility to NEC in 1996 which promoted the dumping dispute with the Japanese. Once a multi-billion dollar business, the supercomputer industry was reckoned by analysts to be worth around $560m last year. Meantime, Cray and IBM Corp are just two of the companies involved in a project to deliver a 30 TFLOPS system to the US Lawrence Livermore Labs’ Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) in 2001, and 100 TFLOP machine by 2005 (CI No 3,029).

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