The supercomputer being built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could change the race for supercomputing supremacy between the United States and China, U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann said during a budget hearing on Thursday.
The congressman said Summit, a 200-petaflop supercomputer at ORNL, will be commissioned this summer, and it will be the fastest supercomputer in the world, with twice the power of the top Chinese system. The Chinese machine is a 93-petaflop system known as Sunway TaihuLight.
During Thursday’s budget hearing, which featured Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Fleischmann said the United States and China are in a race for supercomputing supremacy. The race is critical to advances in science and technology that will drive economic growth, said Fleischmann, a Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge.
Citing a February 9 edition of Science magazine, Fleischmann said the U.S. dominated supercomputer rankings for decades but is now far behind. The combined power of the top two machines in China easily outpaces all 21 supercomputers operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, the country’s top funder of supercomputers, the congressman said.
But that could change with the commissioning of Summit this summer, Fleischmann said.
It’s a critical next step on the U.S. path to exascale computing, which will feature systems that are 1,000 times more powerful than the top supercomputers today, Fleischmann said.
He said the United States has a research and development plan to develop and deploy an exascale system by 2021, including a machine called Frontier at ORNL.
China or Japan are expected to deploy their own systems at about the same time, Fleischmann said, so the United States needs to deploy its exascale system by 2021 to beat those two countries or remain competitive.
Perry said DOE’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 includes $636 million for exascale computing, with $473 million in funding for the DOE Office of Science (ORNL is an Office of Science lab) and $163 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration. That’s a proposed increase of $376 million above the spending level that was enacted in fiscal year 2017.
The budget request would fund the “research, development, and design at the Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory with expected deployment of an exascale‐capable computing system in 2021 with a second system with a different architecture in 2022,” the U.S. Department of Energy said in a budget brief posted online. “This Science/NNSA partnership will bolster America’s national security by supporting the nuclear stockpile while supporting the next generation of science breakthroughs not possible with today’s fastest computing systems.”
Answering questions about the fiscal year 2019 budget request on Thursday, Perry told the House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee that, in June, he had announced $258 million in funding over three years for six leading U.S. technology companies. Those awards will develop and accelerate critical computing hardware, Perry said, and help put the United States back in its “rightful place.” It’s important to national security, and it’s not just a DOE initiative, he said.
Argonne will have the first exascale computer, followed closely by ORNL, Perry said.
“This should put us back in either the first or second slot,” he said.
Perry said exascale computing will be followed by quantum computing, and ORNL will play a very important role in that.
The DOE budget request for fiscal year 2019, which starts October 1, also includes $105 million for quantum computing.
In January, TOP500, which ranks the world’s top supercomputers twice a year, reported that China is planning to launch a “pre-exascale supercomputer” this year that could outperform Summit, possibly spoiling U.S. plans to retake the TOP500 crown.
Alexander: Congress supports DOE supercomputing plans
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, has also warned that the United States could fall farther behind competitors like China unless new technologies are developed.
Alexander announced in a press release this month, a week before Thursday’s DOE budget hearing in the House, that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had unanimously approved a bill known as the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act. Committee approval of that bill re-affirmed congressional support for Department of Energy plans to build the next generation of the world’s fastest supercomputers, known as “exascale,” Alexander said. He said those systems are essential to national security and American competitiveness.
“The Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act authorizes the Department of Energy to continue with plans to build the world’s fastest supercomputers, which are essential to national security and American competitiveness and would create good-paying jobs,” Alexander said in the press release. “Supercomputing has helped maintain our nuclear stockpile, enabled manufacturers to make better products and save money, and even allowed scientists to map the human heart at one beat per second. The United States faces a choice between falling further behind competitors like China, or developing new technology that can make the United States safer and more competitive in a global, 21st century economy.”
The legislation approved by the Senate committee this month includes provisions from the Exascale Computing for Science, Competitiveness, Advanced Manufacturing, Leadership, and the Economy Act, which was introduced by Alexander in 2015. That bill would create research partnerships between industry, universities, and U.S. Department of Energy national labs to research and develop at least two exascale supercomputer architectures, with the goal of having a fully operational computer system reach “exascale,” far beyond the speed of any current system in the world, the press release said.
The press release said the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act was agreed to by voice vote in the House of Representatives on January 24, 2017.
The press release said Alexander’s Exascale Computing for Science, Competitiveness, Advanced Manufacturing, Leadership, and the Economy Act of 2015 is also included in the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, which was introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, and Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, in July 2017.
China passes U.S. in number of top supercomputers
Oak Ridge Today reported in November that China had passed the United States in the total number of top ranked supercomputers, and that the Titan supercomputer at ORNL had dropped from fourth to fifth on the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers. Titan is used for research in areas such as materials science, nuclear energy, combustion, and climate science.
China has the two most powerful supercomputers on the TOP500 list: Sunway TaihuLight and Tianhe-2 (Milky Way-2). TaihuLight is a system developed by China’s National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering and Technology, and it is installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi. It has a High Performance Linpack mark of 93.01 petaflops.
A petaflop is one quadrillion calculations per second. That’s 1,000 trillion calculations per second.
Tianhe-2 (Milky Way-2), the number two system at 33.86 petaflops, was developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, and it is deployed at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China.
Piz Daint, a Cray system in Lugano, Switzerland, is the number three supercomputer on the list at 19.59 petaflops. It’s the most powerful supercomputer in Europe.
The number four system is the upgraded Gyoukou supercomputer in Japan at 19.14 petaflops.
Now number five on the TOP500 list, Titan is a five-year-old Cray system installed at ORNL, and it is capable of 17.59 petaflops.
Released twice a year, the TOP500 list released this past November had China overtaking the United States in the total number of ranked systems by a margin of 202 to 143. It is the largest number of supercomputers China has ever claimed on the TOP500 ranking, with the U.S. presence shrinking to its lowest level since the list’s inception 25 years ago. Six months earlier, the United States led with 169 systems, with China coming in at 160.
“Despite the reversal of fortunes, the 145 systems claimed by the U.S. gives them a solid second-place finish, with Japan in third place with 35, followed by Germany with 20, France with 18, and the United Kingdom with 15,” according to a TOP500 press release in November.
China has also overtaken the US in aggregate performance. The Asian superpower now claims 35.4 percent of the TOP500 flops, with the United States in second place with 29.6 percent, the press release said.
Summit will replace Titan at ORNL
In June 2016, ORNL officials said Summit, the new 200-petaflop supercomputer at ORNL, will succeed Titan, and it could be available to scientists and researchers in 2018. The new IBM supercomputer could about double the computing power of Sunway TaihuLight, the number one supercomputer on the TOP500 list.
In August, ORNL said Summit, located in a new data center next to Titan, will be the world’s smartest supercomputer. It will be 5-10 times faster than Titan, ORNL said. It will move data five to 10 times faster, store eight times more data, and perform many more calculations simultaneously than Titan, the lab said.
Summit will be the world’s smartest supercomputer because of its enormous memory and data handling capabilities as well as its unique machine learning processor design, according to ORNL. The first cabinets arrived in August at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL.
Titan was the top supercomputer for a short time. It was number one in November 2012, but it was bumped to number two behind Tianhe-2 in June 2013. June 2016 was the first time it had been number three. It continued to be ranked number three in November 2016. Piz Daint bumped it to number four in June before it dropped to number five in November.
As big as a basketball court, Titan is 10 times faster than Jaguar, the computer system it replaced. Jaguar, which was capable of about 2.5 petaflops, had ranked as the world’s fastest computer in November 2009 and June 2010.
The DOE budget request for fiscal year 2019, including the funding for supercomputing, will be considered by Congress, and the House and Senate may approve spending levels that are different than what the Trump administration has proposed. Congress still hasn’t passed a final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018, which started this past October 1, relying instead on short-term spending measures known as continuing resolutions.
You can watch Thursday’s DOE budget hearing here.
Learn more about Summit on the website of ORNL’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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