Department of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy and Cray to Deliver Record-Setting Frontier Supercomputer at ORNL

May 7, 2019

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Exascale system expected to be world’s most powerful computer for science and innovation.

OAK RIDGE, TN - The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a contract with Cray Inc. to build the Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is anticipated to debut in 2021 as the world’s most powerful computer with a performance of greater than 1.5 exaflops.

Scheduled for delivery in 2021, Frontier will accelerate innovation in science and technology and maintain U.S. leadership in high-performance computing and artificial intelligence. The total contract award is valued at more than $600 million for the system and technology development.  The system will be based on Cray’s new Shasta architecture and Slingshot interconnect and will feature high-performance AMD EPYC CPU and AMD Radeon Instinct GPU technology.

“Frontier’s record-breaking performance will ensure our country’s ability to lead the world in science that improves the lives and economic prosperity of all Americans and the entire world,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Frontier will accelerate innovation in AI by giving American researchers world-class data and computing resources to ensure the next great inventions are made in the United States.”

By solving calculations up to 50 times faster than today’s top supercomputers —exceeding a quintillion, or 1018, calculations per second—Frontier will enable researchers to deliver breakthroughs in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security. As a second-generation AI system – following the world-leading Summit system deployed at ORNL in 2018 – Frontier will provide new capabilities for deep learning, machine learning and data analytics for applications ranging from manufacturing to human health.

Since 2005, Oak Ridge National Laboratory has deployed Jaguar, Titan, and Summit, each the world’s fastest computer in its time. The combination of traditional processors with graphics processing units to accelerate the performance of leadership-class scientific supercomputers is an approach pioneered by ORNL and its partners and successfully demonstrated through ORNL’s No.1 ranked Titan and Summit supercomputers. 

“ORNL’s vision is to sustain the nation’s preeminence in science and technology by developing and deploying leadership computing for research and innovation at an unprecedented scale,” said ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia. “Frontier follows the well-established computing path charted by ORNL and its partners that will provide the research community with an exascale system ready for science on day one.”

Researchers with DOE’s Exascale Computing Project are developing exascale scientific applications today on ORNL’s 200-petaflop Summit system and will seamlessly transition their scientific applications to Frontier in 2021.

Frontier will offer best-in-class traditional scientific modeling and simulation capabilities while also leading the world in artificial intelligence and data analytics. Closely integrating artificial intelligence with data analytics and modeling and simulation will drastically reduce the time to discovery by automatically recognizing patterns in data and guiding simulations beyond the limits of traditional approaches.

“We are honored to be part of this historic moment as we embark on supporting extreme-scale scientific endeavors to deliver the next U.S. exascale supercomputer to the Department of Energy and ORNL,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. “Frontier will incorporate foundational new technologies from Cray and AMD that will enable the new exascale era -- characterized by data-intensive workloads and the convergence of modeling, simulation, analytics, and AI for scientific discovery, engineering and digital transformation.”

Frontier will incorporate several novel technologies co-designed specifically to deliver a balanced scientific capability for the user community. The system will be composed of more than 100 Cray Shasta cabinets with high density compute blades powered by HPC and AI- optimized AMD EPYC processors and Radeon Instinct GPU accelerators purpose-built for the needs of exascale computing. The new accelerator-centric compute blades will support a 4:1 GPU to CPU ratio with high speed AMD Infinity Fabric links and coherent memory between them within the node. Each node will have one Cray Slingshot interconnect network port for every GPU with streamlined communication between the GPUs and network to enable optimal performance for high-performance computing and AI workloads at exascale.

To make this performance seamless to consume by developers, Cray and AMD are co-designing and developing enhanced GPU programming tools optimized for performance, productivity and portability. This will include new capabilities in the Cray Programming Environment and AMD’s ROCm open compute platform that will be integrated together into the Cray Shasta software stack for Frontier.

“AMD is proud to be working with Cray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Department of Energy to push the boundaries of high performance computing with Frontier,” said Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO. “Today’s announcement represents the power of collaboration between private industry and public research institutions to deliver groundbreaking innovations that scientists can use to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.”

ORNL’s Center for Accelerated Application Readiness is now accepting proposals from scientists to prepare their codes to run on Frontier. Visit the Frontier website to learn more about what researchers plan to accomplish in these and other scientific fields.

Frontier will be part of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. For more information, please visit



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