The US Department of Energy (DOE) is encouraging manufacturers to prototype the next generation of supercomputers. In two time windows, each about four years apart, the available computing power of so-called exascale systems will increase exponentially.
As a first step, the DOE wants a supercomputer that can handle 10 to 20 exaflops by 2026. This corresponds to up to 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second with double (FP64) precision. By comparison: Frontier is currently the fastest supercomputer on the Top500 list with 1.1 exaflops and peak values of 1.1 exaflops and the common Linpack benchmark. For AI calculations, for example in Bfloat16 or FP16 data formats, the new system should be 8 to 16 times faster, meaning it can perform 320 trillion calculations per second at best.
The second step is an increase to at least 100 FP64 exaflops from 2030. AI forms can then move into zettaflops territory with more than a trillion calculations per second. That DOE outlines the plan in a request for information (Request for Information), which targets all types of manufacturers – from CPU and GPU designers like AMD, Intel and Nvidia to system integrators like HPE, Lenovo and Dell, to software developers.
Power loss is up to 60 MW
Supercomputers should get by with power consumption of 20 to 60 MW – 30 MW is a common target nowadays. DOE wants detailed information on how manufacturers intend to improve the performance of their hardware in the coming years to meet the framework’s conditions. These include manufacturing process improvements and new packaging technologies such as chip stacking.
Additionally, the ministry is considering further limiting future supercomputers to replace individual components every 1 to 2 years instead of replacing them completely in a 4 to 5 year cycle.
Computing power is said to “revolutionize scientific fields such as power generation, materials design, chemistry, precision medicine, advanced manufacturing, inventory management and national security”. Nuclear weapons research is also part of national security. National research institutions such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Argone National Laboratory operate US supercomputers.
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