U.S. HPC lead in danger

The DOE's exascale program is stalled, and its prospects appear bleak at a time of budget-cutting fever.

The SC11 supercomputing conference in Seattle last month saw an almost obsessive focus on the development of an exascale computing system -- one that would be roughly 1,000 times more powerful than any existing system -- before the end of the decade.

Programs to develop ever-higher-performance computing systems are underway around the world -- but the U.S. isn't yet leading the way, even though it has dominated HPC development for decades.

China and Europe, in particular, are moving ahead with strong exascale programs. And Japan is increasingly picking up the pace. Efforts in the U.S., however, are stalled; the federal government hasn't released a formal exascale plan since last summer, when it outlined preliminary goals of building an exascale system that doesn't use more than 20 megawatts of power by 2019 or 2020.

The U.S. Department of Energy is due to deliver to Congress by Feb. 10 a timetable and budget for building an exascale system.

The delivery of the U.S. plan couldn't come at a worse time politically, particularly after the Congressional Super Committee last month failed to reach a budget agreement, triggering significant mandated cuts.

Experts say exascale systems could be capable of solving the world's greatest scientific problems. If the U.S. falls behind, the research would increasingly be done in other countries.

To continue reading this article register now

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon