Trump proposes another $475 million for supercomputers as Oak Ridge builds next version of world's fastest machine

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Oak Ridge National Laboratory National Center for Computational Sciences Director James Hack tours the Summit supercomputer on the campus of ORNL on Monday, June 10, 2019 in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Summit is currently the fastest computer in the world.

Since 2009, the fastest computers in the world have been housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, known successively as the Jaguar, the Titan and now the Summit.

Next year, Oak Ridge will get an even faster and bigger supercomputer when one of the world's first exascale computers, dubbed the Frontier built by Cray Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices, is added at the lab's computational research facility. The $600 million Frontier computer system is expected to go into operation n 2021 and will be the largest of three exascale computers planned by the Energy Department, including the Aurora and El Capitan computers at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

In his budget proposal this week, President Trump pledged to provide another $475 million for exascale computing "to help secure the United States as a global leader in supercomputing," according to the Office of Management and Budget plan submitted to Congress for fiscal 2021.

photo Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / The Summit supercomputer is seen on the campus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory on Monday, June 10, 2019 in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Summit is currently the fastest computer in the world.

The additional funding for the supercomputer is part of $5.8 billion allocated in the Trump budget for the Office of Science.

In addition to the advanced computer research, the budget plan should aid ORNL with $237 million for quantum information science; $125 million for AI and machine learning; and $45 million to enhance materials and chemistry foundational research to support U.S.- based leadership in microelectronics.

"I applaud the White House's focus on high performance computing and on protecting America's place as a leader in supercomputing and look forward to seeing more details on the President's budget request," said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga who represents Oak Ridge in his district and is a member of the powerful Hosue Appropriations Committee. "Oak Ridge National Laboratory is home to the fastest supercomputer in the world, Summit, and it is natural that it will continue to play a role in maintaining America's position as a leader in the field of high performance computing."

Computing power grows

The number of floating point operations computers can handle per second is increasing exponentially1988: Gigaflops —1 billion1998: Teraflops — a trilion or one million million (or 10 to the 12th power)2008: Petaflops — a quadrillion or one thousand million million (or 10 to the 15th power)2021: Exaflops — a quintillion or billion billion (10 to the 18th power)Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory