The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) revealed on Friday that it will be spending $425 million to fund accelerated research and development, and also build two supercomputers, set to be the fastest in the world. According to Reuters, $325 million to be spent building “Sierra” and “Summit,” and the remaining $10 million will be spent on research.
Summit will be built for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Sierra will be used at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The DOE expects the computers to be completed as soon as 2017. The computers and $100 million research grant are part of the DOE’s FastForward 2 program, which seeks to fund innovative technologies on an extreme scale.
According to U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, the FastForward 2 program, along with the Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Lawrence Livermore, known as CORAL, which are expected to put the U.S. ahead of the curve in energy and environmental research and national defense, along with many fields of basic science. All of which, says Moniz, depends on the ability to simulate complex systems and analyze large quantities of data.
According to the Department of Energy, the two supercomputers will be built to run between five and seven times quicker than any of the fastest computers currently in the U.S. The computers will be built with components from Mellanox, Nvidia and IBM technology companies. Sierra will operate at 100 petaflops, while Summit will operate at 150 petaflops. To put that into perspective, Tianhe-2, currently the world’s fastest computer, runs at 55 petaflops. Lawrence Livermore in California and Oak Ridge in Tennessee have already announced the computers that will be used in their facilities, and Argonne plans to reveal its system at a later time.
The supercomputers will be based on IBM Power servers, Mellanox networking technology and Nvidia GPU accelerators. Nvidia is a California-based tech company praised by gamers for its graphics chips for personal computers, and IBM is known for Power Systems processors, designed to handle complex data in large amounts. IBM unveiled a server in October which makes use of the new OpenPower processor technology and is part of IBM’s move towards custom architecture for large-scale data computing workloads. IBM hopes to compete in the high-end webscale market thanks to the new server.
The joint project, FastForward 2, will be headed by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the DOE’s Office of Science. It will be led by computing industry leaders, including Nvidia, Intel, IBM, AMD and Cray, to name a few. According to Tech Times, the two projects could yield systems as much as 20 to 40 times faster than today’s fastest supercomputers.
The National Nuclear Security Administration plans to use Sierra to ensure the effectiveness, security and safety of the country’s nuclear deterrent without requiring dangerous testing. According to Inside HPC, FastForward 2’s research and development project is focusing on accelerated technologies to be produced and utilized between 2020 and 2023. The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration plan to build the supercomputers using technologies from the leaders of the industry with oversight and engineering from the seven national laboratories managed under the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.
By Sree Aatmaa Khalsa