2013: Shaping Up To Be a Pivotal Year

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.

More story can be found at http://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8QCZ3jIFMVlMVVVSTVKelFPbms/edit

Saturday, December 1, 2012
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