The US Department of Energy has commissioned the world’s fastest supercomputer, expected to be 10 times more powerful than current machines, to test nuclear weapons using computational simulations. Aptly named El Capitan, the beast first crossed our radar in 2018, when it popped up on a budget request to US Congress. The stonking behemoth tops
The US Department of Energy has commissioned the world’s fastest supercomputer, expected to be 10 times more powerful than current machines, to test nuclear weapons using computational simulations.
Aptly named El Capitan, the beast first crossed our radar in 2018, when it popped up on a budget request to US Congress. The stonking behemoth tops out at two exa-FLOPS – that’s 1018 floating point operations (calculations) per second. That beats Summit, the supercomputer currently ranked first in the Top500 list capable of reaching 148,600 tera-FLOPS or 0.1486 EFLOPS at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a research facility sponsored by the DoE.
In fact, it packs more compute than the top 200 supercomputers combined. El Capitan, therefore, will be the world’s most powerful supercomputer – on paper, at least. It’s not expected to arrive until 2023. Uncle Sam has turned to HPE – via newly acquired HPC specialist Cray – to make it happen.
“As an industry and as a nation, we have achieved a major milestone in computing,” HPE’s Peter Ungaro, senior veep and general manager, HPC and Mission Critical Systems (MCS), said on Wednesday. “HPE is honored to support the US Department of Energy and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in a critical strategic mission to advance the United States’ position in security and defense.
“The computing power and capabilities of this system represent a new era of innovation that will unlock solutions to society’s most complex issues and answer questions we never thought were possible.”
El Capitan will be kitted out with AMD’s x86-64 EPYCTM processors under its Zen core architecture and its Radeon Instinct GPUs. All of the hardware is built to follow AMD Infinity Architecture, a configuration that ensures high bandwidth and low latency between the CPUs and GPUs.
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The rest of the supercomputer – its motherboards, chassis, storage, networks and software – will be integrated under Cray’s Shasta architecture. El Capitan requires copious amounts of flash-based storage to keep as much data on the servers as possible due to the confidential nature of nuclear stockpiling.
The DoE isn’t hogging all the resources, however; it has agreed to share the supercomputer with companies like pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline to run computational models that model new drugs, as well as the National Cancer Institute, which will use its simulation-processing power to uncover mutations of proteins linked to cancers.
El Capitan is owned by the DoE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a top-secret federal agency responsible for nuclear weapons. It will be managed and operated by three NNSA R&D research facilities: the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. ®
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