DOE to spend up to $1.8 billion for exascale supercomputers

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 272 views 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is set to build at least two exascale supercomputers. On Monday (April 9), the federal agency announced spending up to $1.8 billion on a project to build them, and they should be completed sometime between 2021 and 2023.

The computers will be used at DOE National Laboratories and will be follow-on systems to the first U.S. exascale system, named Aurora, that’s being developed at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and set to be completed in 2021. The new project could lead to upgrades and a follow-on system to Aurora in 2022-2023. The fastest computers operate on the petascale and can complete quadrillions (1 with 15 zeros) of calculations per second. Exascale computers can complete quintillions (1 with 18 zeros) of calculations per second.

The exascale supercomputers will be built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

“These new systems represent the next generation in supercomputing and will be critical tools both for our nation’s scientists and for U.S. industry,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said. “They will help ensure America’s continued leadership in the vital area of high performance computing, which is an essential element of our national security, prosperity and competitiveness as a nation.”

The performance level of the new computers will be 50 to 100 times greater than the fastest U.S. supercomputer. The new computers will allow for breakthroughs in science and industry through models and simulations, data analysis an artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to the DOE. Project examples include identify new materials, decipher high-energy physics data, combat cancer, accelerate industrial product design and decrease cost-to-market and examine options for nuclear security.

The new computers will be built as part of a collaboration known as CORAL — the Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Livermore — and will cost between $400 million and $600 million each. A third computer could possibly would be built in the project. UT-Battelle LLC, which operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory on behalf of the DOE, will oversee the project. It will be paid for with funding from the DOE Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In 2016, the two agencies established the Exascale Computing Project that would lead to the development of an exascale computer.

In June 2017, the Exascale Computing Project approved AMD, Cray, HPE, IBM, Intel and Nvidia to research the first exascale supercomputer. The $258 million contract is for three years and the companies will pay for at least 40% of the cost, leading to total investment of at least $430 million. The United States has the third fastest supercomputer — the Titan at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. China has the two fastest supercomputers in the world.

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