The National Nuclear Security Administration has signed a $600 million contract with Cray Inc. to build the first exascale supercomputer for the NNSA at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
It is one of three exascale systems to be built at U.S. Department of Energy or NNSA laboratories. The other two exascale machines will be at DOE laboratories: Aurora at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago and Frontier at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
ORNL currently has the most powerful supercomputer in the world, Summit, and LLNL has the second-fastest, Sierra. They are both petaflop systems. Summit is capable of 200 petaflops, or 200,000 trillion calculations per second.
All three of the new exascale supercomputers will be built by Cray using their Shasta architecture, Slingshot interconnect, and new system software platform, the NNSA said in a press release Tuesday.
An exascale computer will be able to solve calculations up to 50 times faster than today’s top supercomputers, exceeding a quintillion, or 1018, calculations per second. That’s a billion billion calculations per second.
The NNSA supercomputer will be called El Capitan. It is expected to be delivered in late 2022. It will be used for research that helps maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The NNSA is part of DOE, and the agency maintains the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, works on nuclear nonproliferation, and provides fuel for nuclear reactors used by the U.S. Navy. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is in Livermore, California, east of San Francisco.
“The Department of Energy is the world leader in supercomputing, and El Capitan is a critical addition to our next-generation systems,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “El Capitan’s advanced capabilities for modeling, simulation, and artificial intelligence will help push America’s competitive edge in energy and national security, allow us to ask tougher questions, solve greater challenges, and develop better solutions for generations to come.”
In its press release, the NNSA said the new system will allow researchers from all of its weapons design laboratories—LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories—to run 3D simulations and calculations at resolutions that are difficult, time-consuming, or even impossible using today’s state-of-the art supercomputers.
“NNSA is modernizing the nuclear security enterprise to face 21st century threats,” said Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, DOE under secretary for nuclear security and NNSA administrator. “El Capitan will allow us to be more responsive, innovative, and forward-thinking when it comes to maintaining a nuclear deterrent that is second to none in a rapidly-evolving threat environment.”
El Capitan will achieve a sustained performance of more than 1.5 exaFLOPS, or 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, the press release said. It will substantially outpace LLNL’s Sierra system, which is currently the world’s second most powerful supercomputer at 125 petaFLOPS of peak performance, the press release said.
Like the El Capitan contract, the Cray contract for the Frontier supercomputer at ORNL is also valued at $600 million. Frontier is expected to debut in 2021, when it could be the world’s most powerful. Like El Capitan, Frontier is expected to perform at more than 1.5 exaflops.
The contract with Intel Corporation for Aurora at Argonne National Laboratory (Cray is a subcontractor) is valued at more than $500 million. Aurora will be delivered to Argonne in 2021, and it is expected to be the first exaflop computer in the United States. Argonne National Laboratory is southwest of Chicago.
Read our previous stories on exascale computers here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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