Select researchers will soon have access to Frontier, America’s first exascale supercomputer, which is expected to launch next year with modeling and simulation capabilities at the greatest level of computing performance.
“Frontier is a one-of-a-kind system, and bringing a machine of this magnitude online needs a smart, deliberate effort,” Justin Whitt, program director for the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, where the machine will be situated, told Nextgov on Wednesday. “Thanks to our world-class team’s hard work and dedication, we’re precisely where we expected to be two years ago when we set the strategy in place.”
The next generation of high-performance supercomputing will be powered by exascale systems.
A quintillion operations per second will be performed by the large and powerful tools. They will, according to Whitt, “more realistically simulate the processes involved in scientific discovery and national security,” such as those related to regional climate, additive manufacturing, “the conversion of plants to biofuels, the relationship between energy and water use, the unseen physics in materials discovery and design, and fundamental forces of the universe, and a plethora of others.”
The Energy Department stated in 2019 that it would purchase Frontier for the Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a $600 million contract with supercomputer producer HPE Cray and chipmaker AMD.
Exascale systems are being created at other institutions, including Lawrence Livermore and Argonne National Labs, in addition to Frontier. The system for the latter was supposed to be the first working exascale in the United States, but delays in the manufacturing process forced Frontier to take the lead.
To make place for the gigantic machine, Oak Ridge officials had to conduct the largest, most complete overhaul in the lab’s history. Its components take up the equivalent of two football fields in size.
Frontier was delivered, according to the lab, in the fall.
Whitt told Nextgov this week that the delivery started in August and was completed by the end of October. The installation and integration operations are currently under progress.
“This summer, some early users will have access to Frontier to help strengthen the system in preparation for full user operations on January 1, 2023,” he said.
The supercomputer will also give the lab “unprecedented opportunities to use artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques for issues of global importance, such as discovering new patterns in patient data for precision medicine, uncovering the origins of disease, shedding light on new properties of materials, and advancing research in high-energy physics,” according to Whitt.
The department’s Exascale Computing Program has been instrumental in bringing Frontier to fruition.
“To tackle various facets of the exascale problem, ECP brought together experts from DOE labs, universities, and suppliers,” Whitt added. “On Frontier, ECP is supplying software and scientific applications that are critical to a researcher’s productivity.”