PORTLAND, Ore. A government-backed institute is aiming to create next-generation exaflop computer architectures.
The Institute for Advanced Architectures has received $7.4 million in funding from the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Energy Department's Office of Science. Sandia National Laboratory (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory also will collaborate on designing waht is billed as the world's first exaflop supercomputer.
The fastest supercomputer, IBM's Blue Gene/L located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory can process almost 0.5 petaflops (thousand trillion floating point operations per second). The two U.S. national labs are now joining forces to leapfrog petaflop supercomputers by designing an exaflop architecture capable of sustained throughput of 1,000 petaflops---one exaflop.
"We are faced with some problems for which petaflop supercomputers will not be fast enough," said Sandia National Laboratory computer architect Doug Doerfler. "That's why we need to start designing an architecture now for exaflop-caliber computing."
National security applications include the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, which aims to maintain aging U.S. nuclear weapons. Another is the National Ignition Facility which is involved in fusion reactor research.
Researchers at Sandia National Labs, which helped develop the teraflop computer a decade ago, said merely increasing clock speed, expanding memory capacities and adding cores to processors will not be enough. Instead, a new multicore processor-memory architecture must be constructed that can avoid bottle-necks while managing thousands of processors with hundreds of cores per chip.
In addition, the multi-megawatt power consumption of 1,000-processor computers must also be mitigated in order to make running exaflop supercomputers more economical. Laboratory engineers estimate that each megawatt of power consumption costs about $1 million per year.
Sandia and Oak Ridge are in the early stages of exaflop computer design. They plan to enlist help from both U.S. companies and universities along with other national labs. The National Science Foundation, National Security Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are also expected to work on the project.