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Exascale Computing: HPC Targets AI and Modeling

By Dick Weisinger

How many FLOPs can your computer do? FLOP = Floating Point Operations per Second. As of 2017, the fastest computer was benchmarked at 93 PetaFLOPs or 93×1015 operations per second. Vendors are shooting for ten times that to get into ExaFLOPS — roughly one billion times the performance of a standard desktop computer.

Scientists plan to use these super-fast computers for sophisticated modeling like for weather systems, nuclear reactions, sequencing genomes, and understanding material properties. Sophisticated AI and data analytics have recently been added to the wish list.

Trish Damkroger, head of Intel’s Extreme Computing Organization, said that “by 2023 we expect AI workloads to be a third of the overall High Performance Computing (HPC) server market. This AI-HPC convergence is bringing those two workloads together to solve problems faster and provide greater insight.”

Rick Stevens, Argonne’s associate lab director, said that “these systems have many thousands of nodes, and the nodes have hundreds of cores, and the cores have thousands of computation units, so there’s like, billion-way concurrency. Dealing with that is the core of the architecture.”

Paul Messina, Argonne National Lab Distinguished Fellow, said that “for the United States, it’s important for us to be right there, if not beyond.”

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