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EXCLUSIVE - Japan 2012, Pt 2: K computer brought recognition, but also higher expectations, says Fujitsu

EXCLUSIVE - Japan 2012, Pt 2: K computer brought recognition, but also higher expectations, says Fujitsu

Japanese tech vendor behind renowned supercomputer faced opportunities and challenges in wake of publicity

Fujitsu global business group global marketing executive vice president, Conway Kosi

Fujitsu global business group global marketing executive vice president, Conway Kosi

Fujitsu's prominence in the news over the last 12 months has been largely due to its K computer being ranked the world's fastest supercomputer.

Installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science campus in Kobe City, Japan, the K computer, named after the Japanese word “kei” that means 10 quadrillion, was ranked first in the TOP500 world's fastest supercomputer list first in June 2011 with a rating of over eight petaflops, and again in November the same year at ten petaflops

Since the supercomputer was produced by Fujitsu, the Japanese vendor received a big boost in public recognition due to the technological achievement, a development that Fujitsu global business group global marketing executive vice president, Conway Kosi, was not surprised with.

“The K computer was twice ranked the world’s highest performing and most efficient supercomputer, and not by a slim margin,” he said.

“It took a commanding lead over all competitors in the field.”

With many difficult issues currently facing society, Kosi said researchers and governments are increasingly looking towards solutions that can perform accurate, high-speed simulations to help solve these problems.

“So when the K computer emerged, it was no surprise that our public recognition was given a boost,” he said.

Strong response

Kosi adds the strong response by the public to the K computer reflects a “growing anticipation” for technologies such supercomputers to provide answers that were once “unimaginable.”

In addition to its technical feat, the K computer may have also resonated with the public outside of Japan for its “Cool Japan” factor.

While Kosi personally feels that it may be “a bit of a stretch” to associate the K computer with Cool Japan, a term that was coined a decade ago to describe Japan’s growth as a cultural superpower, he does concede that the branding for the supercomputer, which consists of the “kei” character in bold calligraphy, may “look cool” to people outside of Japan.

The media coverage of the K computer last year thrust Fujitsu into the spotlight, both on its home turf of Japan and overseas, which meant that the company enjoyed greater exposure amongst its business customers and general consumers.

While Kosi admits that increased awareness has been a source of new opportunities for Fujitsu, it has also presented new challenges for the corporation.

“The great this is that many potential customers are now more aware of what we do and what we are capable of,” he said.

“But at the same time, challenge is that the expectations for Fujitsu now are greater than ever before.”

The K computer held on to the number one spot for two editions of the twice yearly TOP500 list, but this month, the title the world’s fastest supercomputer was passed onto the Sequoia supercomputer by American vendor, IBM.

Run by the US Department of Energy, the Sequoia’s 16.32 petaflops of performance has helped America regain the top spot after it initially lost it to China with their Tianhe-1A supercomputer in November 2010 until the Japanese K Computer overtook it the following year.

With greater expectations by the public and increased competition from rival supercomputers, Kosi expects that Fujitsu will continue to move forward with projects that are “even more ambitious” than the K computer.

Unlike companies in the West which are often quick to trumpet their achievements, a lot of Japanese multinational companies such as Fujitsu have seemed content to keep the company itself out of the spotlight and let their products speak for themselves.

Complete confidence

While Kosi admits that Fujitsu has “complete confidence” in its products and services, and has “no doubt” that they can speak for themselves in terms of quality, his transfer from Fujitsu in Sydney to its head office in Shidome, Tokyo in 2010 was part of a growing shift at the vendor to have a more visible role in the market.

“Since introducing ‘shaping tomorrow with you’ as our brand promise in 2010, we’ve been committed to communicating what Fujitsu can deliver to customers,” he said.

“Specifically, our aim is to work with customers to contribute to their success, build long-term partnerships, and harness the power of information and communications technology to enable people to expand their possibilities.”

By being at the centre of Fujitsu’s operation in Japan, Kosi hopes to drive a more proactive approach from within the company that will be reflected throughout Fujitsu’s global portfolio programs across its global business operations.

“By backing up the high quality of our offerings with strong messaging that conveys our corporate values, we are striving to get the word out about Fujitsu as a company,”

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