The U.S. isn't a slouch in the supercomputer game, but it's just made it clear that it doesn't just want to be powerful in this arena, but be the leader. In a post made on the official Whitehouse homepage, an Executive Order from President Obama is discussed, which involves plans to unveil a supercomputer in the next decade that hits the much-sought-after performance of 1 exaflop.
We've been hearing about exascale computing for a while, so it might seem like we're on the verge of it becoming a reality. But when you consider the sheer amount of performance required to hit that target, it's easy to realize why we're still a ways off. The fastest supercomputer in the world right now is the Tianhe-2, located at the National Super Computer Center in Guangzhou, China. With its 3.2 million cores, its performance peaks at 33.9 petaflops, or 33,862 teraflops.
33.9 petaflops... and 1,000 petaflops = 1 exaflop. Now it should be easy to understand just how incredible this journey to exascale computing is, and it's exciting to know that the U.S. government believes it can be done in the next decade.
To hit 1 EFLOP, CPU and GPU vendors need to continue innovating at a reasonable clip; which is something we are seeing happen. With the advent of 3D memory, and its own improvements, along with improvements to interconnects and the general architectures themselves, it's not going to take long before we reach that target.
Still, to picture 1 EFLOP in the next decade is an extremely lofty goal, and one I'm sure companies like Intel and NVIDIA are in for one heck of a challenge to reach it. With such power, though, we can accomplish some grand things. While 33K TFLOPs sounds like enormous performance (and it is), exaflop computing is going to enable unbelievable consistent performance to create the most realistic simulations possible, benefiting many different fields, and eventually, our own lives and how we go about them.