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“On the Road to Exascale…” It’s a phrase that we’ve been hearing a lot of in supercomputing circles the past few years. Exascale has been highly anticipated since the DARPA-commissioned report of 2007 and the breaking of the petaflop barrier the following year. While an exascale reality might be a ways off, there are some signs in the present that offer a glimpse at what it might look like.

Today, Data Center Knowledge released a piece on the high-end data-crunching being performed every day at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, home to three of the world’s most powerful supercomputers: Jaguar, Kraken and Gaea. This trio of supercomputers are a powerhouse foundation for research in weather, climate science, quantum physics. They represent one of the best examples of the cutting edge technology that is driving us on the road towards an exascale future.

An Exascale Titan Rising

All three supercomputers share space in the same room. One of these, Jaguar, could well be the best sign of the exascale computing to come. Capable of 3.3 petaflops (or 3,300 trillion calculations per second), Jaguar is one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers (ranking in the top 10). Having completed its upgrade from a Cray XT5 to an XK6 system, Jaguar’s AMD Opeteron cores were upgraded to the newest 6200 series and their count increased by a third, from 224,256 to 299,008. In addition, 960 of Jaguar’s 18,688 compute nodes now contain an NVIDIA graphics processing unit (GPU).

GPU integration in the supercomputer is expected to be greatly expanded on, part of a longer-term development project which will transform Jaguar into a new supercomputer – Titan. As author Rich Miller remarks:

…Titan is just a first step toward the goal of creating an exascale supercomputer—one able to deliver 1 million trillion calculations each second – by 2018.

For more photos and the full article see – Inside the Oak Ridge Supercomputing Facility.