President Obama wants the United States to lead the charge in supercomputer power, and he has just signed an executive order launching an effort to ensure that happens.
The National Strategic Computer Initiative (NSCI), which was signed by President Barack Obama today, is an effort to build the world's first supercomputer with an exaflop of computational power. To put that into perspective, that is approximately 30 times the computing power of the most powerful supercomputers that exists today.
According to Nvidia, to achieve such a level of processing power would require as much as two gigawatts of electricity, which is roughly the output of the Hoover Dam. To actually achieve such a lofty goal, advancements in performance and power efficiency will be needed. Nvidia said its GPU technologies are poised to deliver this efficiency, delivering as much as 10 times the operations per unit of energy as compared to CPU cores.
President Obama's NSCI is an extension to existing plans (opens in new tab) announced back in November to create two pre-exascale systems being built by the Department of Energy. These two projects are already underway, and the systems being built are expected to deliver between 100-150 petaflops each. That's merely a fraction of the performance demanded by the NSCI, and yet those are already multiple times faster than the supercomputers in use today. The fastest supercomputer in the world at present, China's Tianhe 2, is only capable of a peak 54.9 petaflops of computational power.
The United States isn't the only nation on a quest for exaflop computing power, but the executive order signed today is designed to enable the U.S. to be the first.
To aid in the development of such high performance parallel computing machines, Nvidia is developing a high speed interconnect called NVLink. The company has said that NVLink will enable CPUs and GPUs to exchange data at a much higher rate. Nvidia claimed it allows the CPU and GPU to communicate as much as 5 to 12 times faster than existing interconnect technologies.
Nvidia is also leveraging its recently released OpenACC toolkit (opens in new tab) to simplify use of these massively parallel computing devices. OpenACC makes it simple for researchers to write code that can be executed on different exascale architectures, thus making it easy to run the same code on vastly different machines without rewriting anything. Nvidia's key focus was productivity and portability when creating the toolkit.
Nividia said that scientists are already dreaming up new ways to make use of these forthcoming exascale computers. The European Commission's Human Brain Project plans to use exascale computing to better understand the human mind, and the White House hopes to speed the advancement of personalized medicine with its Precision medicine initiative.
With scientists, engineers and government thinking on an exaflop scale, computing power is about to take a massive leap forward.