U.S. to spend millions on massive, ultrafast supercomputers
Forget TFLOPS; PFLOPS of computing power are on the way
Computerworld - The U.S. government is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years to develop huge supercomputers with power beyond anything available today. The aim is to address the most challenging problems facing science, as well national security and industry.
Once completed, these systems will be capable of sustained petascale computing speeds, which are equal to quadrillions of calculations per second. To understand the scale of these planned systems, the leading machines on the current Top500 Supercomputer List are capable of reaching the range of only multiple TFLOPS (trillion floating-point operations per second). The latest Top500 list, updated twice a year, is due out tomorrow.
But PFLOPS (or "petaflop") systems are coming. Earlier this month, Seattle-based Cray Inc. said it had signed a contract worth $200 million to deliver a PFLOPS-capable system to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory. That system, based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc. processors, will be built in phases of ever-increasing speeds, and is due to be completed in 2008.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) this month began seeking proposals for a supercomputer that could cost as much as $200 million. And in July, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was responsible for creating the Internet, will award two supercomputer development projects expected to cost several hundred million dollars.
The scale of the computing power on its way will be so enormous that "we have to change the way we do computational science to really take advantage of these machines," said Dimitri Kusnezov, head of the DOE's advanced simulation and computing program, which operates the world's most powerful supercomputer, the IBM BlueGene/L. That supercomputer, with more than 131,000 IBM Power processors, was the No. 1 system on the Top 500 list when those rankings were last updated in November.
This DOE BlueGene system broke a record this month when it ran scientific code, called Qbox, at a sustained level of 207 TFLOPS. While the system benchmarks higher on test codes, achieving high levels of performance with a real-world application is a more difficult task because of complexity and size of the code, according to those involved with the project.
But Kusnezov said that when he considers the performance of future systems, including an IBM system built of 250,000 processors, their capabilities will challenge scientists.
"The question is what they would do with an infinite amount of computing speed," said Kusnezov, referring to scientists. "What would they calculate? And I'll wager that they don't have an answer for you. Because people think about their problems within the constraints of what they think they can calculate, and once you remove that constraint, people are lost."
This state transportation department uses computer science students from a local university as programming interns, and everyone is happy with the arrangement -- until one intern learns how to bring down the mainframe.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Changing the Way Government Works: Four Technology Trends that Drive Down Costs and Increase Productivity
- This paper discusses four technology-based approaches to improving processes and increasing
productivity while driving down department and agency costs.
- Why Projects Fail
- CIOs are expected to deliver more projects that transform business, and do so on time, on budget and with limited resources.
- The New Business Case for Video Conferencing: 7 Real-World Benefits Beyond Cost-Savings
- This whitepaper provides insight into the value of video conferencing in today's business environment, and how organizations are using visual collaboration to find...
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Client Management Tools
- The client management tool market is maturing and evolving to adapt to consumerization, desktop virtualization, and an ongoing need to improve efficiency.
- Audit Ready and Asset Optimized: The Solid Promise of an Intelligent Software Asset Management Solution
- In this paper Frost & Sullivan examines the benefits of enterprise-grade Software Asset Management solutions, and how these solutions serve as the convergence... All Government IT White Papers
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Mobile Security: Containerizing Enterprise Data In this on-demand webinar, Fixmo's Lee Cocking, VP of corporate strategy, explains why Apple-ization trends like mobility and "bring-your-own-device" (BYOD) are driving the...
- Endpoint Data Management: Protecting the Perimeter of the Internet of Things Not surprisingly, "Internet of Things" (IoT) and Big Data present new challenges AND opportunities for enterprise IT. Teams need to harness, secure and...
- How to Protect Enterprise Data Yet Enable Secure Access for End Users Learn how BYOD, Big Data and the use of rogue applications and devices is putting corporate data at risk, best practices from IT...
- All Government IT Webcasts