Energy to Debut World’s Fastest Exascale Supercomputer by 2021

Dmitriy Rybin/

Valued at more than $600 million, the next-generation technology will drastically reduce the time it takes to make new discoveries.

The most powerful supercomputer in the world will be built in the United States by 2021, the Energy Department announced Tuesday.

Created at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and in partnership with supercomputer manufacturer Cray Inc. and chipmaker AMD, Energy’s next-generation exascale computer, “Frontier,” will solve calculations up to 50 times faster than today’s top supercomputers. It’s set to exceed an exaflop, or a quintillion (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.

Officials close to the project told reporters on a media call that the contract award is valued at more than $600 million.

“Frontier is an absolute beast,” Cray’s President and CEO Peter Ungaro said on the call. “And it’s not just big: It’s jam-packed with new technology.”

To put its power into perspective, Ungaro said Frontier’s network bandwidth could download over 100,000 HD movies in one second. He said the supercomputer will be roughly the size of two full basketball courts and will weigh in at about 1 million pounds, which is the equivalent of about 35 school buses.

There will also be more than 90 miles of cables inside the supercomputer. If they were laid out straight, the cables would span the distance between Philadelphia and New York.

Ungaro said it will be more powerful than the top 160 fastest supercomputers in the world today, combined.

“If every person on Earth completed just one calculation every second of every day, it would take them over six years to do what Frontier will do in a single second. It’s a pretty amazing machine,” he said.

According to a statement from Energy, the supercomputer will closely integrate artificial intelligence with data analytics, modeling and simulation to drastically reduce the time it takes scientists to make new discoveries.

“Frontier will accelerate innovation in AI by giving American researchers world-class data and computing resources to ensure the next great inventions are made in the United States,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a statement.

Energy also said the supercomputer will be open to all industries and Oak Ridge Lab’s Center for Accelerated Application Readiness is currently accepting proposals from scientists to prepare their codes to run on Frontier.

In March, Energy announced a separate $500 million partnership with Intel and Cray to deliver the United State’s first exascale computer, Aurora, at Argonne National Laboratory by 2021.