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US signs Intel for first Exascale computer

Intel will build $500m supercomputer to keep US in race to exascale computing

The Aurora system will be capable of exaFLOP computing - one quintillion floating point computations per second.
The Aurora system will be capable of exaFLOP computing - one quintillion floating point computations per second.

The US is to get its first exaFLOP supercomputer, after the Department of Energy signed a $500m contract with Intel.

Intel and Cray will build a new exascale computing system, for the DoE's Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. An exaFLOP computer is capable of quintillion - a billion billion - floating point computations per second.

The new system will be the first exascale computer for the US, but China is expected to break the exascale barrier first.

The new DoE system, called Aurora, will be used for scientific research in a number of areas. Aurora will be designed to handle both traditional high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI), to give researchers an unprecedented set of tools to address scientific problems at exascale, such as extreme-scale cosmological simulations, drug response prediction or discovering materials for the creation of more efficient organic solar cells.

"Achieving exascale is imperative, not only to better the scientific community, but also to better the lives of everyday Americans," said US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. "Aurora and the next generation of exascale supercomputers will apply HPC and AI technologies to areas such as cancer research, climate modeling and veterans' health treatments. The innovative advancements that will be made with exascale will have an incredibly significant impact on our society."

"Today is an important day not only for the team of technologists and scientists who have come together to build our first exascale computer - but also for all of us who are committed to American innovation and manufacturing," said Bob Swan, Intel CEO. "The convergence of AI and high-performance computing is an enormous opportunity to address some of the world's biggest challenges and an important catalyst for economic opportunity."

"There is tremendous scientific benefit to our nation that comes from collaborations like this one with the Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, and industry partners Intel and Cray," said Argonne National Laboratory Director Paul Kearns. "Argonne's Aurora system is built for next-generation artificial intelligence and will accelerate scientific discovery by combining high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to address real world problems, such as improving extreme weather forecasting, accelerating medical treatments, mapping the human brain, developing new materials and further understanding the universe - and that is just the beginning."

The foundation of the Aurora supercomputer will be new Intel technologies designed specifically for the convergence of artificial intelligence and high-performance computing at extreme computing scale. These include a future generation of the Intel Xeon Scalable processor, Intel's Xe compute architecture, a future generation of Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory, and Intel's One API software. Aurora will use Cray's next-generation supercomputer system, code-named ‘Shasta', which will comprise more than 200 cabinets and include Cray's Slingshot high-performance scalable interconnect and the Shasta software stack optimized for Intel architecture.

"Cray is proud to be partnering with Intel and Argonne to accelerate the pace of discovery and innovation across a broad range of disciplines," said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. "We are excited that Shasta will be the foundation for the upcoming exascale-era characterized by extreme performance capability, new data-centric workloads and heterogeneous computing."