Testbed supercomputer sets stage for 'exascale era'

August 30, 2021 // By Rich Pell
Testbed supercomputer sets stage for 'exascale era'
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and enterprise information technology company Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) have unveiled a new testbed supercomputer to prepare critical workloads for future exascale systems that will deliver up to 4X faster performance than Argonne’s current supercomputers.

The new system, named Polaris, will be built by HPE, and hosted and managed by the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) - a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility. It will enable scientists and developers to test and optimize software codes and applications to tackle a range of AI, engineering, and scientific projects planned for the forthcoming exascale supercomputer, Aurora - a joint collaboration between Argonne, Intel, and HPE.

Polaris, say the organixations, is designed with industry-leading high-performance computing (HPC) and AI solutions to advance investigations into society’s most complex and pressing issues, from understanding the biology of viruses to revealing the secrets of the universe. It will also augment Argonne’s ongoing efforts and achievements in areas such as clean energy, climate resilience and manufacturing.

In addition, Polaris will help researchers integrate HPC and AI with other experimental facilities, including Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source and the Center for Nanoscale Materials, both DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

“Polaris is well equipped to help move the ALCF into the exascale era of computational science by accelerating the application of AI capabilities to the growing data and simulation demands of our users,” says Michael E. Papka, director at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF). “Beyond getting us ready for Aurora, Polaris will further provide a platform to experiment with the integration of supercomputers and large-scale experiment facilities, like the Advanced Photon Source, making HPC available to more scientific communities. Polaris will also provide a broader opportunity to help prototype and test the integration of HPC with real-time experiments and sensor networks.”

Polaris will deliver approximately 44 petaflops of peak double precision performance and nearly 1.4 exaflops of theoretical artificial intelligence (AI) performance, which is based on mixed-precision compute capabilities. It will be built using 280 HPE Apollo Gen10 Plus systems, which are HPC and AI architectures built for the exascale era and customized to include the following end-to-end solutions:

  • Powerful compute

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