Road to Zettascale: Intel and RIKEN Announce Strategic Partnership

Intel and RIKEN earlier this week announced they’d reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on finding a shared path towards Zettascale computing. Through it, the companies have agreed to collaborate in a joint effort towards Zettascale, which will leverage both Intel and RIKEN’s research expertise and the former’s manufacturing know-how. RIKEN’s access to Intel’s Foundry Services (IFS), its manufacturing division responsible for catering to designs from external clients, is one of the key aspects of the MOU.

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The next hilltop on mankind’s computing power climb, Zettascale (10 to the 21st power, 1,000 times that of Exascale) is being primed for high-impact technologies. AI and the ChatGPTs of this world, some of which we love more than others, are part of it. But so is High Performance Computing (HPC), the envelope responsible for the world’s fastest, classical supercomputers such as Summit; and the fabled quantum computing, an in-execution dream of unlocking extraordinary, subatomic-level computing power.

Specifically, the MOU establishes cooperation in the fields related to supercomputers and AI; silicon-based quantum computer technology and quantum simulation technology; and prototyping in collaboration with Intel Foundry Services.

For RIKEN, the benefits of Intel’s expertise as a leading classical and quantum manufacturer can’t be overstated; it’s a perfect fit with RIKEN’s TRIP (Transformative Research Innovation Platform of RIKEN platforms) program, which it introduced just this year. It essentially aims to tie up the institution’s interests in supercomputing, large-scale synchrotron radiation facilities and bioresource projects; accelerate and develop digital transformation (research DX), and, in its own words, “provide an engine for social change.” Considering Intel’s own work on silicon-based quantum computing, it sounds like everyone is playing to their strengths.

As for Intel, it gains access to RIKEN’s research capability and body of knowledge. It’s uncertain if RIKEN will be perfecting its roadmap with Intel’s input, or if they’ll be intimately developing solutions for a shared roadmap. Considering these are humanity’s most advanced technological systems – with the added difficulty of the road to Zettascale only ending in a nebulous future – it seems smart to pool together as much brainpower as possible.

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Interestingly, RIKEN’s Professor Satoshi Matsuoka clarified on Twitter that while RIKEN does have in its hands busy working on FugakuNEXT (the successor to what once was the world’s fastest Arm-based supercomputer), Intel remains but one possibility. Intel is, in fact, in the race as a potential primary vendor for FugakuNEXT’s feasibility studies, but as Satoshi said, “there are other vendors similarly committed as well with competitive plans.”