US drops $258m on supercomputer development to chase down China

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has found a six pack of tech companies to push towards a computer with one exaflop of power.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor on

The United States will spent $258 million over three years in an effort to develop a supercomputer capable of hitting one exaflop.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced on Thursday that Washington would be awarding the money to AMD, Cray, HPE, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia to develop hardware, software, and applications.

The companies will be kicking in at least 40 percent of the costs, taking the total investment for the program to in excess of $430 million.

"Continued US leadership in high-performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation," Perry said.

The funding will come from the Department of Energy's Exascale Computing Project (ECP) and falls under the PathForward program, with the goal to create a one-exascale system by 2021.

(Image: Top500)

"The work funded by PathForward will include development of innovative memory architectures, higher-speed interconnects, improved reliability systems, and approaches for increasing computing power without prohibitive increases in energy demand," ECP director Paul Messina said.

"It is essential that private industry play a role in this work going forward: Advances in computer hardware and architecture will contribute to meeting all four challenges."

In recent years, a pair of Chinese supercomputers have held the top two spots in the Top500 supercomputer list.

Both computers are run by the Chinese National Supercomputing Center, with the Sunway TaihuLight machine in Wuxi rated at 93 petaflops, and Tianhe-2 in Guangzhou claiming 34 petaflops.

This did not stop the US Department of Energy claiming a form of leadership in a statement.

"While the US has five of the 10 fastest computers in the world, its most powerful -- the Titan system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- ranks third behind two systems in China," it said.

"The US retains global leadership in the actual application of high-performance computing to national security, industry, and science."

Not to be left out, the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology intends to create a 130-petaflop computer for AI development.

It is expected Japan will spent approximately 19.5 billion yen on the computer.

More on supercomputers

Editorial standards