U.S. hits snag in exascale supercomputer race

Budget woes could blunt U.S. efforts to build an exascale supercomputer and give China an opening to beat the DOE's new 2022 target.

Budget woes are forcing the U.S. Department of Energy to extend by two to four years its target for finishing work on an exascale system, increasing the chance that the Chinese will get there first.

At last month's SC12 supercomputer conference, the new timeline projecting delivery of a DOE exascale system between 2020 and 2022 was outlined by William Harrod, advanced scientific computing research division director in the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The new projection assumes that Congress will fund the project in the federal government's fiscal 2014 budget, he added.

To date, the DOE's exascale development effort has received limited funding -- nowhere near the billions of dollars likely needed -- despite a consensus among scientists that the next generation of supercomputers could help deliver research breakthroughs, improve U.S. competitiveness and deepen understanding of huge problems like climate change.

Based in part on predictable increases in computing power, experts had previously expected that a working DOE exascale system would be ready by 2018.

The U.S. today remains far and away the world leader in high-performance computing (HPC). On the latest Top500 list of the most powerful supercomputers, 250 of the systems were built by U.S.-based tech firms.

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