Supercomputers are used for modeling and simulation, and the larger the systems the higher the resolution. An exascale system, for instance, may be able to simulate the workings of an entire human cell as well as improve forecasting and understanding of climate change.
Also, the advances needed to build these systems, such as faster networking, may ultimately find their way into business-class servers.
The DOE has not yet said how exascale funding will be used, but the supercomputing research community has active research efforts in progress. In the interim, DOE is now building 10 petaflop systems , such as the recently announced IBM system planned at Argonne National Laboratory.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Read more about mainframes and supercomputers in Computerworld's Mainframes and Supercomputers Topic Center.