On July 29, 2015 President Obama released an executive order to create a national strategic computing initiative. In 2013, China took the title of having the world’s fastest super computer with the Tianhe-2, which overtook the previous champion, a US computer called the Titan.
Obama’s executive order has established the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) which is a
whole-of-government effort designed to create a cohesive, multi-agency strategic vision and Federal investment strategy, executed in collaboration with industry and academia, to maximize the benefits of HPC for the United States.
The objectives of this order are to build an exascale computing system (super computer) that is capable of delivering 100 times the performance of current 10 petaflop systems. This means the system will run at 1 exaflop or 1 quintillion calculations per second. This is about 30 times faster than most super computers used today. the Tianhe-2 can perform 33,860 trillion calculation a second which is about double what Titan, the leading US super computer can do. The order also aims to bring coherence to the two computing categories of modeling and simulation with analytic computing. A 15 year path is to be set for the future of high performance computing with regards to semiconductor technology.
The order will take an all encompassing approach for use in areas such as networking technology, workflow, downward scaling, foundational algorithms and software, accessibility, and workforce development. All of this research and development will be shared with the private and academic sectors to promote technology advances and collaboration.
Here are the government agencies that will be involved with the endeavor.
Lead Agencies: The Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Foundational Research and Development Agencies: The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Deployment Agencies: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Real Story Of Obama’s Executive Order
Obama’s executive order can be analyzed in several ways. One way to look at it is that the US feels it must take back the title of world’s fastest super computer. China’s Tianhe-2 is the current leader. However, the cost and energy of creating and running the system are extremely high. The Tianhe-2 ran a price tag of $2.4 billion.
We should also take a look at the calculation times and practicality of the system. This new order will surely produce a super computer that outperforms the Tianhe-2. But the Tianhe-2 is actually 142,024 times slower than the Bitcoin network. And other cryptocurrency systems can be quite faster. The BitShares system is capable of producing up to 100,000 transactions per second. In comparison to Visa’s typical transaction time of 2,000 transactions per second, it is quite impressive. Keep in mind that theses systems run on a vast network of computers all over the world and that one cryptocurrency transaction is not equal to one super computer calculation. A cryptocurrency transaction can be very simple, where as a super computer transaction can be very involved.
As far as practicality, complaints have been made about the current leading super computer. In China:
Dr Cao Jun, a team leader at Daya Bay, said they had no interest in Tianhe-2 for a number of reasons: a huge amount of data could choke the computational monster; data flow from one calculating unit to another could be slow; and a slower machine at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High Energy Physics could get the same job done more quickly and cheaply.
“Tianhe-2 cannot give us what we need,” he said. “It is not quite suitable for high energy physics. I am not sure what it can do.”
Computers like these need special code that can take months if not years to create. Otherwise the machine is not efficient.
A likely use for this super computer, is by agencies like the NSA. The NSA is currently under the DOD which is a leading agency on this order. We might see this computer end up at a place like the NSA’s Utah data center. This data center is where the NSA processes and stores all types of info and records on American citizens and people around the world.
All in all this super computer is going to costs a great amount of money. And at the rate of technology depreciation (no one wants last years iPhone) we might see little value out of this computer in 5 years. We could also see great innovation come from Obama’s executive order. These innovations will be shared with both the private and academic sectors which would be a win for everyone.
It would also be ironic for the US to have the greatest super computer ever built but still be so apprehensive about online voting. Just a thought.
What are your thoughts? Does the US need the bragging rights of fastest super computer? And should the NSA get their hands on it? Many consider the NSA to be invasive while others say their actions are justified. Let us know in the comment section below.
About the author: Will Long is the Marketing Manager of Follow My Vote.[contentblock id=blog-subscribers]