Q&A: Exascale now a global race for tech
Top scientist Peter Beckman details U.S. steps, international rivalry
Computerworld - The international competition to build an exascale supercomputer is gaining steam, especially in China and Europe, according to Peter Beckman, a top computer scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.
An exascale system will require new approaches in software, hardware and storage. It is why Europe and China, in particular, are marshaling scientists, research labs and government funding on exascale development. They see exascale systems as an opportunity to build homegrown technology industries, particularly in high-performance computing, according to Beckman.
An exascale system is measured in exaflops; an exaflop is 1 quintillion (or 1 million trillion) floating point operations per second. It is 1,000 times more powerful than a petaflop system, the fastest systems in use today.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is expected to deliver to Congress by Feb. 10 a report detailing this nation's plan to achieve exascale computing. The government recently received responses from 22 technology firms to its request for information (RFI) about the goal to develop an exascale system by 2019-2020 that uses no more than 20 megawatts (MWs) of power. To put that power usage in perspective, a 20-petaflop system being developed by IBM, which will likely be considered one of the most energy efficient in the world, will use seven to eight MWs.
Beckman, the director of the Exascale Technology and Computing Institute at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory, talked with Computerworld about current developments in exascale. Excerpts from that interview follow:
The Department of Energy wants an exascale system by 2019-2020, and one that operates on no more than 20MW. What did DOE learn from the tech industry responses? About 22 companies replied. [DOE isn't disclosing the names of the responding companies.]They had a wide range of types of companies. Some were integrators; some were chip designers, software companies. All of them said that this is a great challenge and that we think we can make fantastic progress on this, but it will be really hard. We're setting pretty lofty goals, hard things. But if you start out saying that 100MW will be just fine, then you're not really pushing the envelope. The 20MW is very difficult to achieve, but we want to see new technology to make that happen, and so all of them, universally, said that was hard.
Did they ask you to adjust the 20MW requirements? All the responders said it would be a difficult target to reach without a strong investment. If we allowed them twice as much power, 40MW or 50MW, then it is much simpler. They also said that the system software and the whole software stack required an integrated approach. Most of the responses, I would say, were light on the data challenges. People know that data is a challenge, but they really focused, in the responses, on the computing.
- Money talks, and that's all quantum maker D-Wave has to say
- IBM project aims to forecast and control Beijing's air pollution
- China has the fastest supercomputer, but the U.S. still rules
- ISC: Cray makes Lustre palatable for storage administrators
- SC500: China wins a slowing supercomputer race
- Fujitsu 56 Gbps circuit doubles communication speeds between CPUs
- HP enters supercomputing market with water-cooled Apollo system
- In exascale, Japan stands apart with firm delivery plan
- Here comes a supercomputing app store
- An HPC champion helps Trek Bicycle shift gears
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.
- Who does NSS Labs "Recommend" for NGFW?
- In 2012, NSS Labs found that most available NGFW solutions "fell short in performance and security effectiveness." In 2013 NSS Labs noted "marked...
- 5 Ways Dropbox for Business Keeps Your Data Protected
- Protecting your data isn't a feature on a checklist, something to be tacked on as an afterthought. Download here to find out how...
- What is this "File Sync" Thing and Why Should I Care About It?
- All of a sudden, getting a file from your work laptop to your iPad became as simple as clicking "Save." So it's no...
- The Keys to Securing Data in a Collaborative Workplace
- Losing data is costly. IT professionals have spent years learning how to protect their organizations from hackers, but how do you ward off... All Government IT White Papers
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Why Are Customers Really Deploying an NGFW? It seems every IT Security expert is talking about the NGFW, but what are people really doing? This webcast covers 5 real-world customer...
- Charting Your Analytical Future - "Making predictive analytics part of your business processes" Webinar This session will show how predictive analytics can be used throughout the organization by anyone looking for answers and how organizations can make...
- On-demand webinar - 7 Keys to Service Catalog Implementation Success Watch this webinar to learn 7 crucial keys to make your service catalog a success!
- Transform Your IT Service Management Watch this webinar, to learn how EasyVista can increase IT productivity & efficiency and deliver streamlined & integrated IT Service & Asset Mgmt.
- All Government IT Webcasts