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The Exascale Revolution

HPC Wire (10/23/14) Tiffany Trader

Experts are coming to a consensus that the shift from the petascale to the exascale supercomputing eras is going to be more challenging than many previously anticipated. At the recent Argonne National Laboratory Training Program in Extreme Scale Computing, Pete Beckman, director of Argonne’s Exascale Technology and Computing Institute, highlighted some of the possible problems. One major concern is power and the costs associated with it. Although supercomputers have been getting more energy-efficient, Beckman uses the example of the most recent generations of IBM supercomputers to demonstrate a 5x trajectory of energy efficiency gains that would still have an exascale system requiring 64 megawatts of power, which could cost tens of millions of dollars a year. These cost concerns are prompting many countries to pursue exascale computing on an international scale, forming multinational partnerships to share the massive costs. The U.S. and Japan recently entered such an agreement, and Europe is looking to join them. However, China is proceeding on its own, largely on the strength of its own native technology. Beckman also addressed challenges relating to memory and resilience and the need to update software to be able to make use of exascale resources.

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