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DOE: Federal Spending Necessary for Exascale Supercomputer Development

FierceGovernmentIT (09/15/13) David Perera 

Federal agencies must spend money on the development of an exascale supercomputer if a viable machine is to be built by 2022, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Department to Congress. The report notes that an exaflop computer would consume more than 1 gigawatt of power, “roughly half the output of Hoover Dam,” if the approach to exascale supercomputing follows the one taken for petascale machines. The Energy Department achieved petascale-level performance by networking clusters of commodity processors and memory. Still, at the normal pace of technological improvement and without the benefit of commercially risky investments, an exascale machine would require more than 200 megawatts of power at an estimated cost of $200 million to $300 million annually. Developing an exascale system is expected to cost $1 billion to $1.4 billion. Supercomputers currently need 10 times more energy to bring two numbers from memory into the processor than to execute the subsequent operation itself, and the Energy Department estimates that by 2020, that ratio could reach 50 times more. The department also would need to address memory and data movement issues, as well as determine how to cope with runtime errors in an exascale machine.

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