A rendering of the Sierra supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

DOE invests $425 million in next-gen supercomputing

Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz announced an award of $325 million to IBM to build two state-of-the-art supercomputers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. 

In addition, approximately $100 million will be dedicated to accelerate research in extreme scale supercomputing technologies as part of the  FastForward 2 program.

The supercomputers will use NVIDIA’s Volta GPU to handle some of the data processing tasks rather than relying solely on the central processing unit (CPU)  for data crunching. The GPUs and IBM’s Power architecture are tightly coupled to memory chips where often-used data is stored. The CPU and GPU components talk to one another via Mellanox’s interconnect, wrote John E. Kelly III, on the IBM Smarter Planet blog.

When the Summit and Sierra supercomputers are delivered starting in 2017, they are expected to achieve five to 10 times the processing performance of current supercomputers. But raw computation is only part of the story. Just as important is a series of system and software innovations that will enable the computers to efficiently handle a wider array of analytics and big data applications.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s new system, Summit, is expected to provide at least five times the performance of ORNL’s current leadership system, Titan when it is delivered in 2017.

“Summit builds on the hybrid multi-core architecture that the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) successfully pioneered with Titan,” said Buddy Bland, the director of the Summit project at the OLCF in Oak Ridge’s announcement.

“The large, powerful nodes allow applications to achieve very high performance without having to scale to hundreds of thousands of Message Passing Interface tasks. The combination of very large memory per node and the powerful IBM Power and NVIDIA processors provides an ideal platform for data analysis as well as computation.”

Oak Ridge researchers will applying Summit’s capabilities to combustion science, climate change science, energy storage and nuclear power safety.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s new supercomputer, Sierra, is expected to be at least seven times more powerful than its current machine, Sequoia. It will serve the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program.

Sierra will be used for weapons science and engineering calculations. “This work promises to advance the state of the art in simulation science to the benefit of the larger research community,” said Charlie Verdon, LLNL principal associate director for Weapons and Complex Integration.

Argonne National Laboratory will announce its award at a later time.

The FastForward 2 funding is for leading high-performance computing companies to develop exascale technologies.  The joint project between DOE Office of Science and NNSA will be led by computing industry leaders AMD, Cray, IBM, Intel and NVIDIA.

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