Obama Orders Exascale Supercomputer Initiative

World’s faster supercomputer. Obama orders creation of computer capable of 1,000 petaflops

President Obama has signed an executive order for a high-performance computing (HPC) initiative.

The initiative, known as the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), will see the United States develop the fastest supercomputer in the world capable of running at 1,000 petaflops or one exaflop.

Exascale Supercomputing

Obama signed the HPC executive order earlier this week, as he wants to ensure the US has plenty of computing power to run government departments in the future, and maintain the US domination with high-performance computing (HPC) research and development.

The NSCI project will be lead by three US government departments, namely the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, the scheme is also intended to be “executed in collaboration with industry and academia, to maximize the benefits of HPC for the United States.”

So what is the NSCI scheme hoping to achieve? Well it is clear that Obama wants the United States to achieve genuine exascale supercomputing capabilities with a machine capable of running at 1,000 petaflops, which is much much quicker than today’s supercomputers.

supercomputer milkywayTo give you an idea of how fast that is, an exascale system would be capable of performing 1 million trillion floating-point operations per second. Currently, the world’s fast supercomputer is China’s Tianhe-2, which delivers 33.86 petaflops. The United States is lagging behind, as its fastest supercomputer, the Cray Titan at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is thought to be only capable of 15 petaflops.

“Accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing system that integrates hardware and software capability to deliver approximately 100 times the performance of current 10 petaflop systems across a range of applications representing government needs,” said part of the NCI mission statement.

The US president is clearly looking to his legacy of his time in office, and he believes that high-performance computing is needed if the United States is to retain its economic growth, which will increasingly rely on high performance next-generation computers.

Arms Race?

But what about timeframe? Well according to the executive order, the President hopes to deliver this by 2030.

“Establishing, over the next 15 years, a viable path forward for future HPC systems even after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached (the “post- Moore’s Law era”),” says the executive order.

Intel meanwhile predicted back in 2011 that it would be able to provide ‘exascale’ computing performance by 2020.

Supercomputers do play an increasingly national role. China for example has been recently expanding its supercomputer push and currently has the world’s fast supercomputer, despite using homegrown chips.

Earlier this year Intel was denied an export licence, which it had sought in order to contribute tens of thousands of microprocessors to a Chinese government supercomputer upgrade project.

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