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DOE investing $200M in next-gen supercomputer for Argonne; on the road to exascale computing

Under the joint Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Lawrence Livermore (CORAL) initiative, the US Department of Energy (DOE) will invest $200 million to deliver a next-generation supercomputer—Aurora—to the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF). When commissioned in 2018, this supercomputer will be open to all scientific users.

The new system, Aurora, will use Intel’s HPC (high performance computing) scalable system framework to provide a peak performance of 180 PetaFLOP/s. Aurora, in effect a “pre-exascale” system, will be delivered in 2018. Argonne and Intel will also provide an interim system, the 8.5 PetaFLOP Theta, to be delivered in 2016, which will help Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) users transition their applications to the new technology. (Theta will require only 1.7 MW of power.)


Intel’s HPC scalable system framework is a flexible blueprint for developing high-performance, balanced, power-efficient and reliable systems capable of supporting both compute- and data-intensive workloads. The framework combines next-generation Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi processors, Intel Omni-Path Fabric, innovative memory technologies, Intel Silicon Photonics Technology and the Intel Lustre parallel file system. The framework also provides a ubiquitous and standards-based programming model, extending the ecosystem’s current investments in existing code for future generations.

Intel will work with Cray Inc. as the system integrator sub-contracted to provide its industry-leading scalable system expertise together with its proven supercomputing technology and HPC software stack. Aurora will be based on a next-generation Cray supercomputer, code-named “Shasta,” a follow-on to the Cray XC series.

Argonne National Laboratory’s announcement of the Aurora supercomputer will advance low-carbon energy technologies and our fundamental understanding of the universe, while maintaining United States’ global leadership in high performance computing. This machine—part of the Department of Energy’s CORAL initiative—will put the United States one step closer to exascale computing.

—Under Secretary Orr

The $200-million award is the third, and final, supercomputer investment funded as part of the CORAL initiative, a $525-million project announced by Department of Energy Secretary Moniz in November 2014. CORAL was established to leverage supercomputers that will be five to seven times more powerful than today’s top supercomputers and help the nation accelerate to next-generation exascale computing. DOE earlier announced a $325-million investment to build state-of-the-art supercomputers at its Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore laboratories.

Few national investments have the potential to demonstrate dramatic progress and capability across many scientific disciplines and domains with real-world benefits. Advanced computing is a lever that drives transformational change in science and technology, accelerating discovery and shortening the time for technology to reach market.

—Peter Littlewood, Director, Argonne National Laboratory

Key research goals for the Aurora system include:

  • Materials science: Designing new classes of materials that will lead to more powerful, efficient and durable batteries and solar panels.

  • Biological science: Gaining the ability to understand the capabilities and vulnerabilities of organisms that can result in improved biofuels and more effective disease control.

  • Transportation efficiency: Collaborating with industry to improve transportation systems with enhanced aerodynamics features, as well as enable production of better, more highly-efficient and quieter engines.

  • Renewable energy: Engineering wind turbine design and placement to greatly improve efficiency and reduce noise.

Additionally, DOE Under Secretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr announced $10 million for a high-performance computing R&D program, DesignForward, led by DOE’s Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

DesignForward is working to accelerate the development of next-generation supercomputers. The program recently awarded $10 million in contracts to AMD, Cray, IBM and Intel Federal, complementing the $25.4 million already invested in the first round of DesignForward. Under this public-private partnership, the four technology firms will work with DOE researchers to study and develop software and hardware technologies aimed at maintaining our nation’s lead in scientific computing.


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