This Japanese Monster Makes Supers Look Slow

Just four months after opening its first direct sales office in the U.S. supercomputer market, Fujitsu Ltd. has begun describing to scientists what it says will be one of the most powerful computers ever. The Japanese giant says that later this year it will unveil a so-called massively parallel supercomputer theoretically capable of burning through more than 300 billion program instructions per second. That's far faster than most supercomputers today. Another noteworthy number: its high price. Market watchers reckon the brute will cost $90 million or more.

Fujitsu says its machine, available by yearend, will embody a new approach to parallel computing. Other massively parallel suppliers link together hundreds or thousands of relatively cheap, low-powered microprocessors. But Fujitsu plans instead to tie together several hundred "vector" processors similar to those used in the conventional supercomputers that Fujitsu and market leader Cray Research Inc. currently sell. Supercomputer analyst Gary Smaby says the Fujitsu announcement shows that "the Japanese have not been asleep at the wheel" in parallel processing, as some critics had claimed.

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