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US to re-establish supercomputing dominance

In a bid to re-establish US leadership in the field of high-performance computing, the US Department of Energy has today announced a $425 million project to develop supercomputers that will leapfrog the international competition and open up the way to Exascale machines.

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced that two machines will be built at a cost of $325 million, one at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge and one at its Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. A third machine will be built at Argonne National Laboratory but that announcement has been deferred.

The Chinese have stolen a march on the US with their Tianhe-2 machine which has consistently achieved more than twice the performance of the fastest US supercomputer. Tianhe-2 has been at the top of the world’s list of fastest computers, the TOP500, for couple of years. Experts believe that it is likely to retain this position in the list that will be published next week to coincide with the opening of SC14.

The joint Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Lawrence Livermore (CORAL) was established in early 2014 to leverage supercomputing investments, streamline procurement processes and reduce costs to develop supercomputers that will be five to seven times more powerful when fully deployed than today’s fastest systems in the US.

In addition, Secretary Moniz also announced approximately $100 million to further develop extreme scale supercomputing technologies as part of a research and development programme titled FastForward 2.

The Coral programme was analysed by Scientific Computing World in July as an example of the way in which the US Government works with private industry to foster the development of advanced technology, with benefits not only to Government R&D but also to the private sector and its ability to profit from high technology.

Secretary Moniz said: ‘High-performance computing is an essential component of the science and technology portfolio required to maintain US competitiveness and ensure our economic and national security. DOE and its National Labs have always been at the forefront of HPC and we expect that critical supercomputing investments like CORAL and FastForward 2 will again lead to transformational advancements in basic science, national defence, environmental and energy research that rely on simulations of complex physical systems and analysis of massive amounts of data.’

Both CORAL systems will make use of IBM Power Architecture, NVIDIA’s Volta GPU and Mellanox’s interconnect technologies to advance key research initiatives for national nuclear deterrence, technology advancement and scientific discovery.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL’s) new system, Summit, is expected to provide at least five times the performance of ORNL’s current leadership system, Titan.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL’s) new supercomputer, Sierra, is expected to be at least seven times more powerful than LLNL’s current machine, Sequoia. Argonne National Laboratory will announce its CORAL award at a later time.

The second announcement today, FastForward 2, seeks to develop critical technologies needed to deliver next-generation capabilities that will enable affordable and energy-efficient advanced extreme scale computing research and development for the next decade.  The joint project between DOE Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will be led by computing industry leaders AMD, Cray, IBM, Intel and NVIDIA.

In an era of increasing global competition in high-performance computing, advancing the Department of Energy’s computing capabilities is key to sustaining the innovation edge in science and technology that underpins US national and economic security while driving down the energy and costs of computing. The overall goal of both CORAL and FastForward 2 is to establish the foundation for the development of exascale computing systems that would be 20-40 times faster than today’s leading supercomputers. 

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