An American Supercomputer In The Making

The world is fascinated with computers. It’s undeniable with the number of digital innovations littered around us. From our personal lives to the society at large, computers play a big role in our day-to-day. The computers we now have are very much different from the ones we used to dabble with in our youth. Gone were the floppy disks and super slow Internet explorer of yesteryears. And with technology, you can only go forward with each passing years. With the tech capability we now have, artificial intelligence is almost within our reach.

Various countries try to outbuild one another with the computing technology they develop. China’s economy is only second to that of the US but they dominate the world of supercomputers. In an effort to surpass supercomputers made by the Chinese, the US is allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to make this dream a reality, and hopefully, rank higher than the first two that came from Chinese soil.

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.


Continued research and development in computing technology are vital in keeping abreast with the many digital changes in today’s world. The US should definitely double their efforts because it did not make it to the top 3 of the recent Supercomputing Top 500 list even though five US-made supercomputers made it to the top ten.

A Cray system in Switzerland is now the world’s third most powerful supercomputer, behind two Chinese systems.

That means for the first time in 21 years a US high-performance computing system is not one of the world’s top three supercomputers, according to the June 2017 rankings by the supercomputer benchmarking project Top500.

The only other time a US supercomputer had failed to make Top500’s top three ranking was in 1996, when the US was edged out by three Japanese supercomputers.

The pack is currently led by China‘s Sunway TaihuLight, by far the fastest computer on earth measured by floating-point operations, or flops. It was developed by China’s National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology, NRCPC, and is capable of 93 petaflops, or 93 quadrillion flops, under Linpack performance tests.

That benchmark has remained unchanged since it launched in June 2016, notably with a Chinese-designed processor.


China got the first two spots while Switzerland got the third one leaving the US out of the top three. If not addressed right away, not only does this gap impact computing developments in the US but as well as the building of weapons, improving cyber security, and the research and development on the aerospace, automotive, and pharmaceutical industry.

In defense, the US DOE said that hardware is not the sole focus in building supercomputers but in developing efficient software that works 100{ddf747c4c486e9958adbc77363e67d0352bd480b62ee32ea0c519727654aeec6} in the real world. But still, that does not erase the fact that China is working very hard to build the first exascale supercomputer in the world, way ahead of the US. If the US don’t want that to happen, now is the best time to start working on a plan on how they can build one that is just as good before the Chinese hits the jackpot.

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