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U.S. Exascale Supercomputer will Obsolete China's Tianhe-2

By | Dec 06, 2014 08:04 AM EST
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Supercomputer

The IBM Blue Gene Q Supercomputer .(Photo : REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE)

American intelligence agencies announced Friday their plans to develop and build a new superconducting supercomputer that will increase the current computing capacity while simultaneously reducing energy consumption and the physical footprint of the machines.

The "Cryogenic Computer Complexity" program" or C3 is a multi-year research project of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a branch of the U.S. intelligence community.

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The aim of the C3 program is to build an exascale supercomputer capable of at least 1,000 petaflops or 1 exaflop. This massive speed is about 40 times faster than the world's existing supercomputers. This incredibly fast machine will be used by U.S. intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA for decoding encrypted messages.

China's Tianhe-2 supercomputer, the world's fastest, has a speed of 33.9 petaflops.

The project has awarded contracts to three major technology companies: International Business Machines, Raytheon BBN Technologies and Northrop Grumman.

The C3 program aims to use recent breakthroughs in supercomputing technologies to build a superconducting supercomputer with "a simplified cooling infrastructure and a greatly reduced footprint."

The required power, space and cooling state for the current supercomputers is based on the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology that's becoming uncontrollable.

"Computers based on superconducting logic integrated with new kinds of cryogenic memory will allow expansion of current computing facilities while staying within space and energy budgets, and may enable supercomputer development beyond the exascale," said Marc Manheimer, C3 program manager at IARPA.

The U.S. is driving its effort to create the next generation of superconducting supercomputers to compete with the world's fastest computer from Europe, Japan and China. China's 55 petaflop Milky Way is based on complementary metal oxide semiconductor technology that requires tens of megawatts to power.

The supercomputers are expected to be much smaller and will require less physical infrastructure to cool. Also, it's expected to have a much more reduced energy footprint than current machines.

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