China's Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer
The new Japanese ABCI system could rival the world’s current fastest computer, China’s Sunway TaihuLight.

Japan is building a hugely powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning research.

The AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) supercomputer promises more than 100 petaflops of computing power to enable “world-class AI R&D”, according to the country’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) — one of the largest public research organizations in Japan.

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ABCI “will rapidly accelerate the deployment of AI into real businesses and society,” the institute said.

It described the supercomputer — due to be built by the end of next year — as having “extreme computing power”, tailored for AI machine learning and deep learning research. It also features “multi-petabyte-class” shareable big data storage for AI R&D collaboration, the institute said.

“As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast,” Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at AIST, told Reuters. The news agency also said that the Japanese government will spend 19.5 billion yen (around $173 million) on the project, which will feature around 130 petaflops of computing power.

That’s likely to make it one of the most powerful supercomputers around: the current number-one supercomputer, the Chinese Sunway TaihuLight, currently boats 93 petaflops (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark. Another Chinese supercomputer, the Tianhe-2 (MilkyWay-2) currently holds second place.

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