The Department of Energy will grant $258 million to six technology companies that are working to create the nation’s first exascale supercomputer.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the awards, part of the agency’s Exascale Computing Project, on June 15. Exascale computers refers to systems capable of at least one exaFLOPS, or a billion billion calculations per second.

Supercomputers are critical for organizations specializing in national security, manufacturing, industrial competitiveness, and earth sciences. The $258 million, which will be allocated over a three-year period, will go toward research and development efforts. The companies will also provide additional funding equaling at least 40 percent of the project cost, meaning the total investment for the supercomputing project is $430 million.

“Continued U.S. leadership in high-performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation,” Perry said. “These awards will enable leading U.S. technology firms to marshal their formidable skills, expertise, and resources in the global race for the next stage in supercomputing—exascale-capable systems.”

The award is granted as part of DOE’s PathForward program. The six awarded companies are: Advanced Micro Devices, Cray, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, International Business Machine, Intel, and NVIDIA.

Specifically, the department’s funding will go toward hardware, software, and application development. The goal is to have at least one exascale-capable system by 2021.

“The PathForward program is critical to the ECP’s co-design process, which brings together expertise from diverse sources to address the four key challenges: parallelism, memory and storage, reliability and energy consumption,” said Paul Messina, director of the Exascale Computing. “The work funded by PathForward will include development of innovative memory architectures, higher-speed interconnects, improved reliability systems, and approaches for increasing computing power without prohibitive increases in energy demand. It is essential that private industry play a role in this work going forward: advances in computer hardware and architecture will contribute to meeting all four challenges.”

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Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.