Obama launches exascale computing project

Obama launches exascale computing project

President Obama wants an exascale computer, and is creating a "whole-of-government" initiative to drive the development of supercomputers that far outpace current models.

In a July 29 executive order, Obama established the National Strategic Computing Initiative "to create a cohesive, multi-agency strategic vision and federal investment strategy, executed in collaboration with industry and academia, to maximize the benefits of [high performance computing] for the United States."

NSCI will be driven largely by the National Science Foundation and the departments of Defense and Energy.   NASA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institutes of Health and the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are designated as the five "deployment agencies" that will put the planned computers to use and will take part in the planning and development efforts.

The fastest supercomputer in the world today is China's Tianhe-2, which runs at 33.86 petaflops.  In April, the Energy Department announced a $200 million supercomputer investment that is expected to produce a peak performance of 180 petaflops when it is delivered in 2018.  Exascale computing, which is the stated goal for NSCI, means 1,000 petaflops or higher.

"Over the past six decades, U.S. computing capabilities have been maintained through continuous research and the development and deployment of new computing systems," the executive order states.  "Maximizing the benefits of HPC in the coming decades will require ... a cohesive, strategic effort within the federal government and a close collaboration between the public and private sectors."

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