Money for Supercomputer Coming to Argonne
The U.S. Department of Energy is investing $200 million to bring to Argonne National Laboratory by 2018 a new supercomputer that is "18 times more powerful" than its current one, Lynn Orr, the department's undersecretary for science and energy, said Thursday.
The new system, called Aurora, is also expected to be six times faster than Top500.org's top-ranked supercomputer in the world, the Tianhe-2 in China, according to Mike Papka, director of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.
Aurora will eventually replace Mira, the supercomputer that has been at Argonne, located near Lemont, since 2012 and which is the fifth-fastest supercomputer in the world.
Orr announced the award at a news conference at the 1871 technology hub in Chicago, where Cray Inc. executive Barry Bolding, Intel executive Dave Patterson, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-11th) and Argonne Director Peter Littlewood also spoke. Cray and Intel will collaborate to supply the computer.
Bolding said Aurora "probably has a chance to be the fastest in the world, we just don't know what other people will build," adding that Cray cares more about problem-solving capabilities than the speed alone.
Littlewood agreed, adding that Aurora "will solve the biggest problems."
But Lipinski chimed in with a slightly blunter take:
"Let me add, I'm an engineer, so problem-solving is what our real goal is; but when it comes to the politics, we want to be No. 1," as far as having bragging rights to the top supercomputer, he said with a smirk, prompting audience members to laugh.
In layman's terms, supercomputing refers to high-performance computing at speeds billions of times faster than a personal computer, making possible "the ability to model the world in great detail" and advanced research developments in "biological science, material science, transportation efficiency and renewable energy," according to Orr.
"Supercomputing truly touches nearly everything in society," Orr said, pointing out that anyone who has "ever ridden in an airplane" benefits from supercomputing.
Industry in the Chicago area often benefits from supercomputing, as companies such as Boeing and Caterpillar have partnered with Argonne to use this technology for airplane and engine design, he said.
"Just like a new iPhone, this technology needs to be updated," said Foster, who added that he's the only physicist in Congress.
Orr said Aurora will be available to "all scientific users" who write a successful proposal to use the system.
The award announced Thursday is part of a collection of awards totaling $525 million, involving Argonne, Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Orr said the Aurora will ultimately "enhance our understanding of matter and help maintain U.S. global leadership in computing."
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