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  • 2013: Shaping Up To Be a Pivotal Year

    Date: 12/01/2012

    A letter to the emerging exascale

    By: Professor Thomas Sterling, Indiana University

    As we bring 2012 to a close, and celebrate the winter solstice
    and other events of perceived personal importance, it is
    incumbent upon us to pause and consider progress towards
    selected goals and lessons acquired through the processes
    of their pursuit.

    For those of us committed to the advancement of high
    performance computing, the realization of Exaflops capability
    is one such selected goal; the means of achievement of
    which is uncertain and a source of contention among

    This past year has seen significant progress towards the
    discovery of those means in the US through the initiative of
    the DOE in their on-going Co-design Program and their new
    X-stack Program, providing a framework for investigation in
    application and system development towards practical
    exploitation of usable exaflops computing systems. The
    terms “practical” and “usable” are key to the long-term goal.
    There is little doubt that a collection of a few hundred million
    ALUs can be integrated to form a machine with a raw peak
    performance of a quintillion floating-point operations per
    second before the end of this decade. Making it work for
    some highly visible self-selected applications of suitable
    regular and static properties is also likely, even using
    conventional practices that are anticipated to be extended in
    to that time frame.

    However, devising systems able to support a broad diversity
    of essential applications that do not conform to these
    favorable properties and that are representable in some
    schema at sufficiently low power and high reliability is far
    more challenging. But this is so far merely an assertion and
    has not been adequately demonstrated.

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