frontier exascale computer (Department of Energy)

Energy orders up most powerful supercomputer

The Department of Energy signed a $600 million deal with Cray for a 1.5-plus exaflop supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Lab.

The Frontier machine, which will be based on Cray’s new Shasta architecture and Slingshot interconnect and will feature CPU and GPU processors from AMD optimized for artificial intelligence applications, will be delivered in 2021. Its ability to calculate 50 times faster than today's supercomputers will provide researchers with new capabilities for scientific modeling and simulation, AI and data analytics for applications ranging from manufacturing to human health. These closely integrated capabilities will drastically reduce the time to discovery by automatically recognizing patterns in data and guiding simulations beyond the limits of traditional approaches, DOE officials said.

The exascale machine's software stack "brings together the performance and scalability of the supercomputing world with the flexibility, modularity and user productivity of the cloud world all together in the same machine," Cray President and CEO Peter Ungaro said at the announcement.

Frontier is the follow-on machine to the 200-petaflop Summit, which is also installed at Oak Ridge. Summit, which uses IBM CPUs and Nvidia GPUs, is currently the most powerful supercomputer in the world, according to the latest Top500 rankings.  Researchers in DOE’s Exascale Computing Project currently developing applications on Summit will seamlessly transition their work to Frontier in 2021.

Frontier is the second of three exascale machines the DOE plans to deploy. In March, Argonne National Laboratory announced a $500 million contract with Intel Corp. and Cray for Aurora, a 1-exaflop machine. When it is delivered in 2021 it will be the nation's first exascale system to come online. A third exascale machine is planned for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

ORNL’s Center for Accelerated Application Readiness is now accepting proposals from scientists to prepare their codes to run on Frontier.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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