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Industry Out of Phase With Supercomputers

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The Frontier supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The National Nuclear Security Administration's Frontier computer can perform a quintillion floating-point operations per second (flops), making it the first “exascale” computer.

Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Technical and economic changes in the semiconductor industry threaten to stifle U.S. development of the next generation of high-performance computers, warns a new report from the National Research Council.

With Moore's Law and the scaling of transistors waning, the industry is turning to chip designs that don't work for the supercomputing that's used in massive simulations. The report focuses on defense use in modeling the physics of nuclear weapons, but the changes also would affect simulations including those used for climate modeling and weather forecasting.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, responsible for the U.S. nuclear stockpile, "needs to fundamentally rethink its advanced computing research, engineering, acquisition, deployment, and partnership strategy," warns the report.

From IEEE Spectrum
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