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John O | May 2019

DOE and Cray announce partnership to build record-setting Frontier supercomputer

By Josh Perry, Editor


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new contract with Cray Inc., an American supercomputer manufacturer, to build the Frontier supercomputer at the Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory with an expected debut in 2021 and expected performance of more than 1.5 exaflops.


The DOE and Cray Inc. announced plans to build the world’s fastest supercomputer, Frontier. (DOE)


According to the announcement from DOE, Frontier will cost more than $600 million. It will be based on Cray’s Shasta architecture and Slingshot Interconnect and AMD EPYC CPU and AMD Radeon Instinct GPU technology.


“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,” the announcement continued.


This is a second-generation system, following the Summit system that was unveiled at ORNL in 2018, and is expected to enhance AI, machine learning, and data analytics capabilities with applications from manufacturing to medicine and human health. ORNL has previously deployed Jaguar, Titan, and Summit, which were all the world’s fastest computer at the time they were revealed.


Learn more about what Frontier will offer at https://www.olcf.ornl.gov/frontier.


Frontier will contain more than 100 Shasta cabinets with high-density compute blades powered by AMD’s EPYC processors and Radeon Instinct GPU accelerators. There will be a four to one GPU to CPU ratio and AMD Infinity Fabric links and coherent memory. Cray is working with AMD to build GPU programming tools to optimize performance.


According to a report from Venture Beat, “Frontier’s network bandwidth will be 24 million times greater than the average home internet connection, or speedy enough to download 100,000 HD movies in a second. The system will have a physical footprint spanning 7,300 square feet, the equivalent of two basketball courts. And Frontier’s internal cable and wiring would run all the way from Philadelphia to New York City (about 90 miles) if laid out flat end-to-end.”


Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO, said in the press release, “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.”

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