President Barack Obama requested $126 million for exascale computing development in the 2012 budget as the Department of Energy proceeded with plans for two new IBM petaflop supercomputers.
President Barack Obama-who during
his January State of Union speech highlighted supercomputing as a way for the
United States to maintain its economic edge-has requested additional funding
for the development of exascale supercomputers in the federal government's 2012
The proposed 2012 budget
included a request for $126 million for exascale computing for the Department
of Energy. If Congress approves the budget, the funds will be split between the
department's Office of Science for $91 million, and the National Nuclear
Security Administration for $36 million. In comparison, the 2011 budget
allocated $24 million for "extreme scale" computing.
The requested exascale
funding is part of the DOE's total budget of $465 million for "advanced"
computing. The proposed 2012 budget reflects a 21 percent increase over the
Exascale supercomputers are
expected to be 1,000 times
than existing petaflop supercomputers. Useful for modeling and simulating
complex situations such as virtual nuclear weapons testing, nuclear fusion
research, or weather forecasting, exascale supercomputers would have the speed
and computing power required for complex workloads. Applications such as modeling
regional climate change or simulating the effects of a new drug on the human
heart require computers with the capacity to rapidly process enormous volumes
of data. The most advanced applications are beyond the capability of today's
commercially available computers.
These exascale systems are
expected to be available by 2021, according to several experts.
In his 2011 State of the
Union speech in January, the president noted that the United States no longer
had the fastest supercomputer in the world. The Tianhe-1 machine at the
National Center for Supercomputing in Tianjin, China, reported sustained
computing power of 2.507 petaflops, which is significantly faster than the U.S.
DOE's Cray XT5 Jaguar in its Oak Ridge, Tenn., facility, with a computing power
of 1.75 petaflops.
While Congress considers the
proposed budget, the federal government is going ahead with its supercomputing
plans. IBM announced earlier this month that it would be deploying Mira, a 10-petaflop
supercomputer, to the DOE's Argonne
in Illinois. A Blue Gene/Q supercomputer capable of 10
quadrillion calculations per second, Mira is expected to be operational in
2012, IBM said.
Mira will be a significant
upgrade for the Argonne, which currently has Intrepid, another IBM Blue Gene
supercomputer, which can perform 557 teraflops (557 trillion calculations) a
second, IBM said. Mira will be 20 times faster than Intrepid, said IBM.
Mira's computing power will
come from more than 750,000 IBM PowerPC A2 1.6 GHz 16-way SMP A2
processors and be capable of 40G bps throughput, according to IBM.
IBM is currently working on
Sequoia, a 20-petaflop supercomputer for the DOE's Lawrence Livermore National
Lab. Sequoia is also expected to be operational in 2012. With 96
refrigerator-sized racks containing a combined 1.6 PB of memory feeding 1.6
million IBM Power processor cores, Sequoia will handle analysis of the U.S.
nuclear stockpile, IBM said.
IBM developed the Blue
architecture, which Sequoia and Mira are based on, in 1993. Two of its
supercomputers are currently among the Top 10 most most powerful supercomputers
in the world, with a total of 22 systems
in the Top 100 list. IBM is also building the 10 petaflop Blue Waters
system for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's National Center for
As data volumes continue to
explode, the ability to compute in exabytes is becoming increasingly necessary.
Monthly Internet data flow is estimated to be 21 exabytes. However, the
challenge facing researchers working on exascale computing is not CPU
processing, but rather that of power management, according to Peter
, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of
The development of exascale
is liable to hit a "power wall," Kogge explains, because the amount
of power required by a machine capable of that kind of computing power would be
"absurd." Scaling the 10-petaflop Blue Waters system 100 times to reach exaflop
processing will require 1.5 gigawatts of power to run it, which is greater than
0.1 percent of the total U.S. power grid, Krogge said in the IEEE Spectrum
magazine. The current architecture and technology needs to be rethought for
exascale computing, to bring "voracious power requirements down to manageable
levels," he said.
Kogge's analysis was the
result of a challenge posed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency in 2007 to determine the kind of technologies needed by 2015 to build an