US Buying What Will Be World’s Fastest Supercomputers

The U.S. Department of Energy has chosen IBM, Nvidia and Mellanox to help it build supercomputers that are many times faster than the most advanced computing systems available today. The $325 million project aims to develop two ultra-fast computers that DOE labs will use for national security, defense and scientific research.

By 2017, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee plans to have its supercomputer, Summit, working on ways to increase the efficiency of internal combustion engines, better understand climate change and improve current science on nuclear power and energy storage. By the same time, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California expects its supercomputer, Sierra, to be performing advanced weapons science and engineering calculations for national security research.

Sierra is expected to deliver computing power exceeding 100 peak petaflops, while Summit will peak at 150 to 300 petaflops. (A computer with a 1-petaflop capacity can handle 1 quadrillion, or 1,000 billion, floating-point operations per second).

Data-Centric Computing

At those rates, both Sierra and Summit will be able to wildly outperform the fastest, most advanced supercomputers available today. Those include Oak Ridge's 27-petaflop Titan, which rolled out in 2012, and China's Tianhe-2, designed to deliver a peak performance of as much as 55 petaflops.

The new DOE supercomputers, IBM said, will be able to more than double such already mind-boggling speeds by using a data-centric approach toward computing. Designed to minimize both energy consumption and data in motion, data-centric computing calls for embedded computing power "everywhere data resides in the system," according to IBM.

"Today's announcement marks a shift from traditional supercomputing approaches that are no longer viable as data grows at enormous rates," said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM's Systems and Technology Group. "IBM's data-centric approach is a new paradigm in computing, marking the future of open computing platforms...

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