The Department of Energy (DOE) and NNSA are home to some of the world’s fastest supercomputers, which are used to model and simulate complex, dynamic systems that would otherwise be too expensive, impractical, or impossible to physically demonstrate.
DOE and NNSA are continuing to push the boundaries in high performance computing by collaborating through the Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI). The ECI was established to achieve cutting-edge exascale systems that will run at an unprecedented speed, 10 times faster than NNSA’s most powerful supercomputers.
Exascale systems can achieve over 1 quintillion operations per second. That’s 10 to the 18th power, or a one followed by 18 zeroes – and also the reason that the 18th of October has been designated as “Exascale Day.”
In celebration of DOE and NNSA’s work towards the enormous milestones of fielding three exascale systems during 2021-2023, DOE’s national laboratories, computer vendors, and industry partners across the country participated in Exascale Awareness Week using the Exascale Computing Project (ECP) website as a main hub. Starting Oct. 12, supercomputing experts shared their perspectives, knowledge, and thoughts about the future in a series of articles, videos, and recorded messages.
For NNSA, supercomputing resources are primarily devoted to stockpile stewardship. The Trinity supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the Sierra supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and the Astra system at Sandia National Laboratories are used for performance assessments of nuclear weapons systems, next-generation weapons design, and running simulations. The vital modeling capabilities enabled by these systems helps NNSA ensure a safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile without the need for nuclear explosive testing. NNSA’s supercomputers also contribute to other fields like nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and most recently, the fight against COVID-19.
In the days leading up to Exascale Day, LLNL and LANL highlighted NNSA’s contributions, in particular the upcoming NNSA exascale supercomputer, El Capitan. El Capitan will allow researchers from NNSA’s National Laboratories to run 3D simulations and calculations at resolutions that are difficult, time-consuming, or even impossible using today’s state-of-the art supercomputers. El Capitan will also lead the way to the future of stockpile stewardship.
As a vital part of the Exascale Computing Initiative, the Exascale Computing Project is a seven year initiative focused on delivering specific application codes and software products which will be utilized at DOE computing facilities. The Project has participation from 15 DOE laboratories, academia, and U.S. computer companies, supported by approximately 1,000 researchers and scientists. The Project’s key research focus areas are Application Development, Software Technology, and Hardware and Integration. ECP will also play a key role in helping to drive new training programs throughout the U.S. High Performance Computing ecosystem to prepare application developers, researchers, and scientists to take full advantage of future-generation exascale environments.