Fujitsu's decision isn't good news for Intel, either. Fujitsu uses Intel chips in some of its systems—the company announced this week that it will run Intel's new Xeon Phi 7200 "Knights Landing" processors in its upcoming Primergy CX1640 M1 server nodes for high-performance computing (HPC) workloads—but opted for ARM for the Post-K supercomputer.
"Intel should be concerned because Fujitsu clearly feels they need to still hedge with another architecture and they wouldn't if they felt Intel covered all the bases," Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, wrote in an email to eWEEK. "On the other hand, ARM still isn't established in this space yet and Fujitsu isn't abandoning Intel for ARM. This is likely showing more dissatisfaction with Oracle by far than Intel. So they wanted off SPARC, already had Intel and Power was too close to [SPARC], thus [they] ended up with ARM for a hedge for customers who want something more cutting edge than a mainstream solution."
Intel is the dominant player in the server chips space, with more than 97 percent of the market. However, organizations are looking for a second chip supplier, and both ARM and IBM and the OpenPower group are looking to be that x86 alternative.
Insight 64's Brookwood also noted that with the move to ARM, Fujitsu engineers can develop the company's own chips based on the ARM architecture rather than having to take the Intel processors and innovate around such components as interconnect and memory. In addition, letting engineers who spent 20 years helping develop SPARC go to work with the ARM architecture "is really going to beef up the high end of ARM-based offerings," he said.
Fujitsu already is an ARM partner, manufacturing other components based on the architecture. These will be the first ARM-based server chips for the OEM.
The Post-K supercomputer reportedly will be 100 times faster than the current K system, which offers 10.5 petaflops (quadrillion calculations per second) of performance and is powered by 705,024 SPARC64 VIIIfx cores. The new system is due to have a performance of 1,000 petaflops. By comparison, the number-one system on the Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers, the Sunway TaihuLight system in China, offers more than 93 petaflops of performance. That system has almost 10.7 million processor cores, and is powered by the Sunway SW26010 chips developed and manufactured in China.