DOE to Field Pre-Exascale Supercomputers Within Four Years

By Michael Feldman

January 16, 2013

The national labs at Oak Ridge (ORNL), Argonne (ANL) and Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) are banding together for their next refresh of supercomputers. In late 2016 or early 2017, all three Department of Energy (DOE) centers are looking to deploy their first 100-plus petaflop systems, which will serve as precursors to their exascale machine further down the line. The labs will issue a request for proposal (RFP) later this year with the goal of awarding the work to two prime subcontractors.

The trio of lab partners, known as CORAL (Collaboration Oak Ridge Argonne Livermore), sent out a Request for Information (RFI) in December 2012 to gather information for the upcoming RFP. It’s possible three separate RFPs will be issued, corresponding to systems hosted at each lab, but according to the RFI addendum, the DOE is “strongly considering” wrapping the multiple acquisitions under a single RFP.

The CORAL partnership between ORNL, ANL and LLNL to secure these pre-exascale machines mirrors the approach of their DOE siblings, NERSC, Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs to acquire their next round of supercomputers. In the latter case, those centers are teaming up to deploy two new machines (NERSC-8 and Trinity) before the end of 2015, about a year ahead of their CORAL counterparts. Because of the time difference and the somewhat different user bases, NERSC-8 and Trinity are almost certainly going to be sub-100-petaflop systems.

The CORAL supercomputers are initially spec’d at 100 to 300 petaflops, along with 5 to 10 petabytes of memory and 70 to 150 PB of storage. “The expectation is that the proposed 2016-2017 system will be roughly an order of magnitude less in time-to-solution than today’s systems at our facilities,” states the RFI. If everything goes as planned, that means the top supercomputer at ORNL in four years will be about 10 times as powerful its current top machine, Titan, which currently delivers 24 peak petaflops and holds title to the most powerful computer on the planet.

Of course, the labs’ focus on “time to solution” is centered around the traditional DOE application domains DOE like molecular dynamics, cosmology, CFD combustion, and others that map to the agency’s Office of Science and NNSA missions. Since these are all Fortran and C/C++ codes, which employ mostly MPI and OpenMP to extract parallelism, the new platforms must be designed to support both legacy codes as well as any future frameworks for exascale computing.

Although the CORAL lab acquisitions have been combined, two distinct solutions will be chosen. One of them will be delivered as separate systems to both ORNL and ANL, while LLNL will choose one of two solutions for its own use. Theoretically that could mean that all three labs could deploy the same machine, but since the feds likes to spread the supercomputing love around, it most likely means two system vendors will get the opportunity to deliver these pre-exascale machines.

More than likely, we’re talking about IBM and Cray as the primes here, although SGI could also make a reasonable case for a leading-edge supercomputer. None of these vendors have revealed platforms topping 100 petaflops yet. Cray’s latest supercomputer, the XC30 maxes out at 100 petaflops, and even at that level of performance, would rely on GPUs or Intel coprocessors that are still under development. IBM is no doubt working on its successor to Blue Gene/Q. But whether Big Blue’s exascale roadmap continues to follow that architecture, incorporates their Power server technology, or comes up with something entirely novel, remains to be seen.

To help foster some of this development, part of the CORAL effort will be to fund non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs associated with these pre-exascale supercomputers. The intent is to pour up to $100 million into these NRE activities, the money to be split between the two prime subcontractors. Some of this could certainly filter down to processor vendors, memory makers, and interconnect providers as well.

It’s up to the bidding vendors to impress the labs on how best to apply the NRE funding, for example, better programmability, improving memory performance, adding embedded network controllers, maximizing data transfers between heterogeneous components, developing more efficient power management, and so on. Alternatively, the NRE could be directed at accelerating schedules, improving system cost, or TCO. The idea is to fund technologies or processes that the IT market would not be expected to deliver naturally.

Both the CORAL and NERSC-8/Trinity efforts are very much in the tradition of the “swim lanes” procurement approach — encouraging the development of competing supercomputing architectures by various labs and vendors. The DOE has simplified the process somewhat by splitting the six leading centers into two teams, each of which will seed money into exascale research via their preferred choice of industry players.

Since these systems will pave the way for exascale technologies, there’s a lot at stake here for the vendors. This isn’t, however, just restricted to a few elite machines for a handful of labs. Petascale supercomputers will become increasingly commonplace during the second half of this decade, and they will be based on many of the same technologies that will drive exascale systems. Those companies tapped by the DOE to develop these next-generation supercomputers will be in a prime position to build not just the first exaflop-capable platforms, but also a whole array of HPC products for a much wider market.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built to run artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and, as Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Exascale System for Earth Simulation Introduced

April 23, 2018

After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) will be unveiled today and released to the broader scientific community this month. The E3SM project is supported by the Department of Energy Read more…

By Staff

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Leading Solution Providers

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This