Obama signs executive order authorizing development of exascale supercomputers

A viable path forward for future HPC (high-performance computing) systems even after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached (the “post-Moore’s Law era”)
August 3, 2015

Titan, former world’s fastest supercomputer (credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

President Obama has signed an executive order authorizing the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), with the goal of creating the world’s fastest supercomputers. The NSCI is charged with building the world’s first-ever exascale* (1,000-petaflops) computer — 30 times faster than today’s fastest supercomputer.

The order mandates:

  1. Accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing system that integrates hardware and software capability to deliver approximately 100 times the performance of current 10 petaflop systems across a range of applications representing government needs.
  2. Increasing coherence between the technology base used for modeling and simulation and that used for data analytic computing.
  3. Establishing, over the next 15 years, a viable path forward for future HPC systems even after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached (the “post-Moore’s Law era”).
  4. Increasing the capacity and capability of an enduring national HPC ecosystem by employing a holistic approach that addresses relevant factors such as networking technology, workflow, downward scaling, foundational algorithms and software, accessibility, and workforce development.
  5. Developing an enduring public-private collaboration to ensure that the benefits of the research and development advances are, to the greatest extent, shared between the United States Government and industrial and academic sectors.

Regaining number 1

In 2013, the U.S lost its position as having the world’s fastest supercomputer — Titan, with 17.59 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) Rmax on the Linpack benchmark — to China with its Tianhe-2, a supercomputer with 33.86 petaflop/s, developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, according to the TOP500 lists of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

There are three lead agencies for the NSCI:  the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  There are also two foundational research and development agencies for the NSCI:  the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

* Exa: 1018; peta: 1015