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May 10, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

United States: A supercomputer in development for medical and environmental research

Aurora will be the name of America’s first exascale supercomputer. Commissioned by the American Department of Energy with the aim of carrying out medical and environmental research projects, it will be built by Intel in partnership with Cray. It looks set to become the world’s most powerful supercomputer. 

The American Department of Energy (DOE) has entrusted Intel with the development of the country’s first exascale supercomputer, in partnership with Cray, reports website The Verge. Called Aurora, the system is due to be fully operational by 2021 and will be built in one of the DOE’s scientific research centres, the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, Intel announced on their blog. This supercomputer, which will have more than an exaflop’s calculating power – that is, 10 to the power of 18 “Floating Point Operations Per Second” – should be able to perform a quintillion floating point operations per second. Summit, which is currently the world’s most powerful supercomputer and was designed by IBM for the DOE’s Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee, peaks at 200 petaflops (200 x 10 to the power of 15 FLOPS).


Supercomputers for cancer research and climate change predictions


Comprising more than 200 cabinets and using Shasta architecture and Cray’s Slingshot network, Aurora will be equipped with the Intel Xeon Scalable next-generation of processors.

Thanks to these features, the laboratory will be able to make advances in high performance computing (HPC) and support its researchers’ work in artificial intelligence (AI). “Aurora and the next generation of exascale supercomputers will apply HPC and AI technologies to areas such as cancer research, climate modelling and veterans’ health treatments,” explained Rick Perry, the U.S. Secretary of Energy.


A contract worth 500 million dollars for Intel and its partners


The contract signed with Intel and its partners to carry out this project is worth more than 500 million dollars, 100 million of which will go to manufacturer Cray, who specialise in supercomputers.

Though Aurora looks destined to become the most powerful supercomputer on the planet, the United States have a serious rival: China. However, Europe has not been left behind in the supercomputer race, with 18 of the Top 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world being located in France. One of them, the Tera-1000-2, developed by French engineering group Bull (Atos), was designed for the  French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).


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