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 pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- 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.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- SANS: Next-Generation Datacenters = Next-Generation Security
- This whitepaper takes a look at some new technology that may allow security teams to implement more flexible and capable protection models in...
- SANS: Protecting Virtual Endpoints with McAfee Server Security Suite Essentials
- SANS review of McAfees Server Security Suite Essentials that address some of the emerging challenges of securing virtual platforms and cloud environments.
- Safeguarding the Next-Generation Data Center
- Use of virtual and cloud servers has exploded. Unfortunately, security often lags behind. McAfee recommends looking at innovative solutions in order to erect...
- Aberdeen: Securing the Evolving Datacenter
- This report highlights ways security technologies and services are evolving to provide the visibility and control needed to deploy workloads flexibly in the... All Government IT White Papers
- Is SQL Server AlwaysOn really as powerful? Tips and Tricks from the field With the introduction of AlwaysOn, Windows Clustering Services is now more critical than ever.
- What Does it Take to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience? The Two Top-Rated Online Retailers, B&H Photo and Crutchfield Electronics, Share Their Secrets Discuss practical CX tools and service methods such as contact center agents and the use of realtime speech analytics to help contact center...
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...
- On Demand: Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed, and it continues to escalate. IT must answer to users who demand access to their...
- DevOps with PureApplication System: Reduce cost and speed delivery with an integrated IBM Cloud solution Join this webcast to hear what ING Netherlands has been able to achieve while deploying DevOps tools from IBM Rational. An ING executive...
- All Government IT Webcasts