President Obama has issued an executive order authorizing the creation of a National Strategic Computer Initiative that will attempt to build the first ever exascale computer, which would be 30 times faster than today’s fastest supercomputer.
The new initiative will see collaborations between the Department of Energy, Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, with NASA, the FBI, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and NOAA providing input during the early stages of development. The primary task of the initiative is accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing system.
“Computational problems and data centric problems are coming together in areas that range from energy, to climate modeling, to healthcare. This shift dictates the need for a balanced ecosystem for high performance computing with an undergirding infrastructure that supports both computationally-intensive and data centric computing.”
Currently, the fastest supercomputer in the world is China’s Tianhe-2, which runs at 33.86 petaflops. This means it is capable of performing 33.86 quadrillion floating point operations per second. The second fastest supercomputer in existence resides in the US; Titan Cray XK7, a machine at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, runs at 17.59 petaflops.
The United States still has more entries on the Top500 list of supercomputers than any other country; it houses 233 of the world’s fastest computers, Europe 141 and China 37.
The National Strategic Computer Initiative seeks to build a supercomputer capable of running at 1000 petaflops or higher, which would make it the world’s first exaflop computer. This would give it the ability to perform one quintillion (a billion billion) calculations per second, which is believed to be the order of processing power of the human brain at neural level.
There was no timeline provided as to when this project will be completed, although the executive order did state that NSCI must be setup within 90 days of today and must release annual reports about its progress.