For the last decade, many gadgets and machines have gotten either an upgrade or a whole new look. The reason behind every update is always to better the service one machine offers as compared to what it does before. These updates happen either on the physical form of the device, or the system of how it works. But more than just an addition of a better feature, there are times when machines and gadgets get a full modification. Such is the case on computers.
Historically started as a counting machine for small numbers, computers originated from the ancient counting tool, abacus, which were primarily used in China, Europe, and Russia.
Now, the world is on the race of creating an “exascale” computer, with Frontier as the US entrant against China, Japan, and France. The $600 million machines will be built by chip designer, AMD, and supercomputer manufacturer, Cray Technology, which will be released in 2021 in Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
With the help of Frontier, science and technology innovations in the country could be accelerated and at the same time maintain the high position of the US in computing and artificial intelligence. Frontier’s system will pattern from Cray’s Shasta architecture, and Slingshot interconnect. It will also feature high-performance AMD EPYC CPU and AMD Radeon Instinct GPU technology.
Frontier is the next generation of computing where its processing power is based on exaflops or quintillions of calculations per second. A quintillion is a big number being followed by 18 zeros: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. As announced by the Energy Department, Frontier is expected to perform 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, a level called 1.5 exaflops. This only means that Frontier’s calculation will be 50 times faster than today’s record-holder top 500 supercomputer – IBM-built Summit machine. It is also projected to surpass Aurora, Cray’s supercomputer running on one exaflop that is also expected to be built by 2021 at Argonne National Laboratory.
A general idea of how big Frontier will be, AMD says, Frontier will have a processing power of 160 combined supercomputers. It can also hold an enormous amount of date with a bandwidth that is 24 million times bigger than an average home internet connection. Physically, this exascale computer would need as much as 7,300 square feet of space or roughly two basketball courts combined with 90 miles of cabling.
US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry says, “Frontier’s record-breaking performance will ensure our country’s ability to lead the world in science that improves the lives and economic prosperity of all Americans and the entire world.” He also added, ‘“Frontier will accelerate innovation in AI by giving American researchers world-class data and computing resources to ensure the next great inventions are made in the United States.”
Also, as a next generation AI, Frontier will offer abilities such as deep learning, machine learning and data analytics for programs that range from human health to manufacturing. However, it is still unguaranteed that the US will be the first to release an exascale computer since China, Japan and France expect their supercomputers to be finished by 2020, a year earlier than that for Frontier. With China dominating the top 500 supercomputers holding 227 positions, winning the race might be a long shot for the US. More than the pride it can give a country, what is also at stake with the success of exascale machines are the capability to perform research on fields of science such as nuclear physics, cosmology, drug discovery, artificial intelligence, and climate simulation.
For developers to consume the performance of Frontier seamlessly, an improved GPU programming tools optimized for performance, productivity and portability are being co-designed and developed by Cray and AMD. This entails Cray Programming Environment and AMD’s ROCm open commute platform integrating new capabilities to the Shasta software stack for Frontier.
“Today’s announcement represents the power of collaboration between private industry and public research institutions to deliver groundbreaking innovations that scientists can use to solve some of the world’s biggest problems,” said Lisa Su, AMD president, and CEO.
According to Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, AMD-based supercomputer was probably chosen by the Department of Energy because it can extend its performance with a technology called Infinity Fabric.
Frontier will become part of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.