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Shasta Supercomputer Selected For $200 Million Department Of Energy Contract

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The Shasta supercomputer, designed by technology company Cray, has been selected by the Department of Energy as the winner of a contract worth $200 million. The Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago will become home to the supercomputer.

The contract was announced as part of the High Performance Computing (HPC) award. The Shasta supercomputer will become part of the Aurora system managed by the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF).

Aurora, scheduled to go online in 2018, is expected to operate at a processing speed of 180 petaflops. Each petaflop is equal to 1,000 trillion floating point operations per second. For comparison, IBM's Watson would operate at about 80 teraflops, or 80 trillion floating point operations per second, and that speed makes Watson able to process the equivalent of a million books per second.

"The scalable architecture of Cray's next-generation Shasta system combined with Intel's advanced processing technologies ensures the Aurora system will be a valuable resource for computational science and engineering," Rick Stevens from Argonne National Laboratory said.

A second system, Theta, will also be be purchased for ALCF, with delivery scheduled for sometime in 2016. This system, operating at 8 petaflops, is designed as an early production system for engineers at Argonne.

Shasta's operating platform is designed after systems in the Cray CS and Cray XC cluster supercomputers. The computer will be capable of supporting multiple software environments and infrastructures. When fully developed, the system will be available to investigators performing research in a wide range of scientific disciplines.

"Argonne National Laboratory's announcement of the Aurora supercomputer will advance low-carbon energy technologies and our fundamental understanding of the universe, while maintaining United States' global leadership in high performance computing. This machine — part of the Department of Energy's CORAL initiative — will put the United States one step closer to exascale computing," said Lynn Orr, U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science and Energy.

The Shasta supercomputer could help researchers advance the designs of turbines for wind-driven electrical generators, as well as run simulations of new biofuels and medicines. New engine designs could also be developed on the system, leading to quieter, more fuel-efficent vehicles.

Orr also announced the creation of DesignForward, a $10 million research and development plan for new high-performance computing systems.

The Shasta contract was the third and final segment of the $525 million Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Lawrence Livermore (CORAL) initiative, announced in November 2014 by DoE Secretary Ernest Moniz.

"This contract is part of the DOE's initiative to build state-of-the-art supercomputers at Argonne, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories that will help advance U.S. leadership in scientific research and position it at the forefront of next generation exascale computing for years to come," Intel officials announced.

Photo: Dennis van Zuijlekom | Flickr

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