The next generation of supercomputers has an official start date. Intel and the US Department of Energy (DOE) are teaming up to deliver the world's first exascale supercomputer in 2021, giving a huge boost to many different fields of research. Named Aurora, the new system will be a thousand times more powerful than the petascale generation that began in 2008 and is still in wide use today.
Aurora will boast a performance of one exaflop, which is equal to one quintillion floating point operations per second. That will make it the first exascale supercomputer in the United States, and unless another competitor emerges from the shadows in the next two years, it's on track to be the first in the world.
By comparison, the most powerful supercomputer in operation today – Summit, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) – runs at 200 petaflops. One exaflop is equal to 1,000 petaflops, making Aurora five times more powerful.
The supercomputer itself will be built using upcoming generations of Intel tech, as well as components from sub-contractor Cray, Inc. The base will be Cray's supercomputer system code-named Shasta, made up of 200 cabinets joined with the Slingshot interconnect and running a version of the Shasta software. Housed in this frame will be Intel's Xe compute architecture running its One API software, as well as future generations of Xeon Scalable processor and Optane DC Persistent Memory.
So what can all this power be used for? It's designed to run both artificial intelligence systems like deep learning and more traditional high-performance computing (HPC) at the same time, which can be applied to problems that require crunching huge amounts of data. That includes things like weather forecasting, cosmology, mapping the human brain, developing new materials and drug discovery.
"Achieving exascale is imperative, not only to better the scientific community, but also to better the lives of everyday Americans," says Rick Perry, US Secretary of Energy. "Aurora and the next generation of exascale supercomputers will apply HPC and AI technologies to areas such as cancer research, climate modeling and veterans' health treatments. The innovative advancements that will be made with exascale will have an incredibly significant impact on our society."
Aurora is explained in detail in the video below.
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