US Plans to Build Pair of Exascale Supercomputers

/ 8 years ago

ExaScale Computing

A panel of US government scientists at the recent annual SuperComputing Conference have outlined an exascale strategy developed while under President Barack Obama’s administration involving the creation of two supercomputer systems.  The project pair is expected to cost around $200 to $300 million each starting in 2019 with a projected completion by 2023. The US is not the only country involved in the exascale systems race with China, Europe and Japan developing their own systems. China confidently announced that their project will be ready by 2020 and expects to be the dominant tech superpower by that time.

One big roadblock in the proposed project is the recent US President-elect Donald Trump, whose climate-change denial and rejection of some current scientific research have made many American scientists worried about getting funds cut for certain projects, especially those seen as more exotic or intangible to the scientifically illiterate.

Currently, the US’ plan is to award the contract to vendors with two distinct architectures, triggering a healthy competition between the two winning bidders. In 2008, a great milestone in supercomputing was reached with the development of the petaflop system. An exascale system on the other hand is 50 times faster than 20-petaflop systems. Parallelism is the key to getting this much performance.

Another big hurdle, this time not in the form of a political block, but an energy-related matter, would be the energy requirements of such a project. While performance is key, energy consumption must be reduced significantly per calculation or it would need its own power plant. One of the outlined criteria is to create an exascale system that can operate under 30 megawatts, but hopefully within 20-megawatt envelope.

Supercomputers are essential tools in modelling and simulation, allowing for virtual calculations that allow for rapid development and deployment of certain projects. Even if China gets their systems built first (and they will), it will come down to building a functional, top-down ecosystem for the US that is also economically sustainable for everyone involved.

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