Exascale now a global race for tech

Top scientist Peter Beckman details U.S. steps, international rivalry

By , Computerworld |  Data Center, supercomputers

What about the February exascale report due to Congress? What's that about? Congress asked the DOE for a written plan for exascale and it is to be delivered no later than Feb. 10. In the last couple of years, the labs, the scientists, have been driving this exascale discussion, because of a need to do the science, and these are big challenges: power, resilience, how to program these things. What hasn't happened is, in some sense, a formal plan from DOE for reaching exascale... [the] plan for getting us there.

Is this report the gateway to funding? Congress is not going to fund an exascale initiative without a clear plan, so real funding is gated on convincing through this plan, and through discussions, of the importance of this for the nation.

What's going on internationally to develop exascale computing? A year and half ago, the Europeans got together as part of working in this space and said, 'We need to put together a European plan.' They created this plan over the last year. In October, I was at the meeting in Barcelona when they presented the plan to the European Commission and said, 'This is what we need for exascale -- two-to-three billion Euros.' In addition to presenting this to the European Commission, which is favorably disposed, they have already boot-strapped three projects. It is a step along the way, but it is bold and it is already started and people are already working on it. If they are successful, it paves the way to put more funding into that and go take it to the next level and eventually look at building a system.

Why is it so important for Europe to develop its own system? A good way to look at this is Airbus and Boeing. An IDC report ( download PDF ) said to the Europeans: You have all this technology but its spread out through all of Europe. If you were to bring it together, you could, like Airbus, compete quite well. I don't want to put too much emphasis on this, but I think it's pretty clear that the Europeans want to develop a platform that can be sold at their supercomputer centers and sold back to us.

What about the Chinese? The Chinese are moving full speed ahead. They have a machine that is very similar in character to some of our machines. It's a water-cooled machine, with 16 cores on a die in a socket at about a petaflop in about nine racks. It's a pretty amazing feat and they are in it to win it. If you look at their investment in people, they're training up the scientists and building platforms to continue that innovation so that they can have their own homegrown industry as well; where they will own all the technology from the chip all the way to the software stack to top.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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