New National Lab Supercomputer Inches America Closer to the Exascale Era

New National Lab Supercomputer Inches America Closer to the Exascale Era

Perlmutter, a next-generation supercomputer that’s planned to run among the planet’s most powerful, is going online at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The first of a two-phase installation started unfolding this week for the advanced system, which the Energy Department’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, or NERSC, will use to explore complex scientific phenomena—and even map the universe.

“We'll be able to take advantage of the system out of the gate,” Dion Harris, Nvidia’s lead technical product marketing manager for accelerated computing, told reporters during a press briefing to preview the new machine. “We're really excited, not just about the performance of the system, but about the applications and the overall science it will enable.”

Designed with Nvidia technology and based on an HPE Cray-provided platform that combines both graphics processing unit-accelerated and central processing unit-only nodes, Perlmutter was built for data-centric computing and artificial intelligence workflows. NERSC recently confirmed its projected performance is roughly three to four times that of the center’s current flagship supercomputing system, called Cori. Presently, nations are working to move from the petascale era of computing—where the fastest supercomputers can perform a quadrillion operations per second—to the new exascale age. At about 1,000 times more powerful than petascale supercomputers, exascale systems can complete a billion billion operations per second.

“Today, we're celebrating the unveiling of phase one, which is essentially the GPU-accelerated portion. So, just based on that phase one, we're expecting to be roughly 120 petaflops of double precision HPC performance,” Harris explained. “That would put us roughly in a top five position for the existing national supercomputer inches america closer exascale