US challenges China in supercomputing race with upcoming 180-petaflop system

It's a U.S. Department of Energy supercomputer called Aurora, which will be deployed in 2018

To get an edge over China in the supercomputing arms race, the U.S. plans to build a 180-petaflop supercomputer that will be used mainly for scientific research.

The U.S. Department of Energy supercomputer, called Aurora, will be deployed by 2018. Its peak performance of 180 petaflops is more than three times the performance of the fastest supercomputer today. But other systems are already being built to deliver between 150 petaflops to 300 petaflops of performance.

Supercomputers are vital to economic, security, scientific and environmental programs in the U.S. and other countries. For example, supercomputers are used for military programs, weather forecasting and economic model simulations. Countries also boast about their supercomputers as a sign of technological superiority.

The world's fastest supercomputer today is China's Tianhe-2, which can deliver peak performance of 54.9 petaflops, according to a compilation by Top500.org. The Aurora system will be an upgrade over the DOE's Titan supercomputer, the world's second fastest.

Aurora could be one of the fastest supercomputers by 2018, if not the fastest, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

New supercomputers also provide a gateway for new processor, memory, networking and storage technologies. Many technologies typically trickle down from supercomputers into servers used in data centers.

The Aurora supercomputer will be deployed at the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. The DOE is investing US$200 million in the supercomputer, and contracts were awarded to Intel and Cray to integrate the system.

Aurora will be based on a design of Cray's next-generation supercomputer code-named Shasta. Not much is known about Shasta yet, but it'll have a faster interconnect than Cray currently provides for supercomputers. A high-bandwidth network is key in reaching the 180 petaflops of performance, as it helps in faster data transfers between storage, processors and memory units inside a supercomputer.

Supercomputers are giant multi-processor systems. Intel said the computer will combine "next-generation" Intel Xeon -- which are used in multi-socket servers -- and Xeon Phi chips, which have up to 72 cores. Intel is also planning on using silicon photonics technology, with data transport inside supercomputers happening through pulses of light.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags U.S. Department of EnergysupercomputersHigh performancehardware systemsCraylaptopsintel

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?