An “Ultra-high-performance Computing Development Forum” was recently established, composed of industry experts and researchers in the field of supercomputers led by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), according to sources in the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) and related academic circles on July 5.
The MSIP is also reportedly conducting a preliminary feasibility study related to the development of original technology of supercomputers as part of Super IT Korea 2020. The public and private sectors reached the conclusion that it is necessary to localize a supercomputer.
In the past, supercomputers were utilized throughout the fields of cutting-edge technology, including basic science that requires the fast and accurate calculation of a large number of figures. Or, they were used to process a large amount of information in a given time.
In recent years, supercomputers are being used in the design and simulation of cars, semiconductors, ships, and aircraft. They are also utilized in handling large-scale business problems like real-time stock analysis or management consulting.
Hyundai Motor reportedly succeeded in cutting the costs required to make pilot cars nearly in half through car crash simulations using a supercomputer. In addition, only 1.5 days is necessary for a supercomputer to simulate car crashes, although about a month is needed for a large computer. As a result, industry analysts are saying that it is possible to reduce the time needed for car development from five to three years.
Amid an increase in the utilization of supercomputers, the Supercomputing Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information has introduced a new system every five years since 1988, and it is currently operating the fourth one. Private enterprises like Samsung SDS and Hyundai Motor, mobile carriers, and financial institutions are also using supercomputers, but most of them were exported from the U.S. or China.
Therefore, some in academic circles are skeptical of the MSIP and KAIST's efforts to develop a local supercomputer. The skepticism is due to the fact that the gap between latecomer Korea and dominant players like the U.S., China, and Japan in supercomputer technology is too wide.
In response, an official at KAIST pointed out, “We can decrease the gap with major advanced countries in the development of original technology, since it is possible for new technology to cultivate new markets and its application to new areas.” The official explained that Samsung Electronics also entered the mobile phone market led by Motorola and Nokia in the early 1990s in spite of strong opposition, but Samsung is currently leading the global cell phone market together with Apple thanks to its tremendous efforts.
The associate at KAIST said, “Tianhe-2, the fastest supercomputer developed by China's National University of Defense Technology, consumes as much power as that needed for operating two nuclear power plants,” adding, “As our nation is a latecomer, the odds will be in our favor if we start to approach the problem of power consumption first, for which we have a competitive advantage, and then focus on the development of a supercomputer capable of processing other applications, different from existing ones.”