The U.S. Will Get the World's First Exascale Computer in 2021

Avery Thompson
Photo credit: Argonne National Laboratory

From Popular Mechanics

For the past several years, the world's power have been locked in a supercomputing arms race, one-upping one another with biggest and faster achievements. According to a new announcement, the world’s fastest supercomputer is coming to the United States in 2021 and will be the first to break the so-called "exascale" barrier.

Supercomputers measure their performance in flops, or calculations per second. A computer that has ten flops can make ten calculations in a second, which is pretty abysmal for a modern computer. Your laptop or desktop is likely capable of several teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second.

The top-performing supercomputer in the world right now is the Summit computer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. That computer reaches 150 petaflops, several thousand times as much processing power as a typical laptop. Several other top supercomputers reach a few dozen petaflops as well. But the big target in supercomputer construction right now is building the first exascale computer, capable of a quintillion calculations per second. Such a computer would be a million times faster than a typical desktop and could dramatically advance scientific and artificial intelligence research.

According to an announcement from the Department of Energy, that first exascale computer is finally coming. Thanks to $500 million from the DoE, a 1 exaflop computer named Aurora will be built at Argonne National Laboratory. The computer will be built using architecture and technology from Intel.

“Aurora and the next-generation of exascale supercomputers will apply [high performance computing] and AI technologies to areas such as cancer research, climate modeling, and veterans’ health treatments,” said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in a press release. “The innovative advancements that will be made with exascale will have an incredibly significant impact on our society.”

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