March 12, 2012, 6:07 AM — Secretariat was famous for coming from behind and winning the race, and the same may be true for the U.S. in the global push to build exascale computing systems. But for now, when it comes to delivering the funding needed to build these systems, the U.S. is just getting out of the gate.
The European Commission recently announced that it is doubling its investment in exascale computing research from EU630 million to EU1.2 billion (about $1.6 billion). The announcement comes as some European governments are adopting strict austerity measures to prevent loan defaults.
The Europeans announced their exascale computing plans in the same week that the White House released its fiscal year 2013 budget, which calls for a third year of anemic funding for exascale development. The Department of Energy had requested nearly $91 million for exascale efforts in fiscal 2012, which began Oct. 1, and it received $73.4 million. That was up from $28.2 million spent on exascale in fiscal 2011.
In the budget proposal delivered to Congress, the White House requested $89.5 million for exascale research, although there's some money earmarked for exascale tucked away in other DOE budgets and in some defense line items.
But even that level of investment is still "peanuts" for a program that may require billions of dollars to really get off the ground, said Earl Joseph, an IDC analyst.
Meanwhile, China is moving ahead with its own plans and has the financial backing and human talent to make progress. "[Europe's] biggest threat is that China is just going to bury them," Joseph said. The new EC funding may allow Europe to "maybe get a little bit ahead of the game."
Challenges include reducing energy consumption by a factor of 100 and developing new programming models, the EC said.
This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.
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