Obama is investing $126 million in exascale computing

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In his budget proposal for 2012, US President Obama earmarked $126 million for the development of the next generation of supercomputers: exascale systems that are a thousand times more powerful than today’s supercomputers.

If Congress approves Obama’s proposal, the Department of Energy will receive about $126 million to develop exascale computing, reports Computerworld. Of this, about $91 million will go to the Office of Science and about $36 million to the National Nuclear Security Administration. The money for exascale systems is part of a $465 million advanced computing budget requested by the DoE. This amount is 21 percent higher than the 2010 budget.

By setting aside money for exascale computing, the White House is counting on a bright future for high-performance computing. Every 10 to 11 years, a barrier to computational power, measured in flops, should be broken, mainly due to chips becoming more powerful. DoE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory was the first to achieve 1 petaflops with IBM’s Roadrunner system in 2008, while the teraflops barrier was broken 11 years earlier by Asci Red at Sandia National Labs. An exascale system is expected to be realized sometime between 2018 and 2020. The question is whether the development of software systems that can make efficient use of millions of cores will keep pace.

Exascale systems are a thousand times more powerful than supercomputer Tianhe-1A, which China unveiled in October 2010. Supercomputers are mainly used for modeling and simulations. An exascale system may be able to simulate the functioning of an entire human cell. It could also better predict climate change.