DOE commits to more exascale

The Energy Department will potentially commit almost $2 billion to build two more exascale computers.

Titan Supercomputer at oak ridge national lab

The Titan Supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The Energy Department wants two more exascale computers at its national laboratories by 2023.

In an April 9 announcement, the agency said it had issued a request for proposals for exascale computer systems at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

Together, the supercomputers could be worth as much as $1.8 billion and would be deployed between 2021 and 2023, according to the department.

Each system, the agency said, could cost between $400 million-$600 million. A third system, for Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., could be possible if additional congressional funding comes through.

Funding isn’t yet available for any of the systems, according to the RFP. However, the document said Oak Ridge intends to pay for its supercomputer through a third-party lease-to-own financing plan outlined in the RFP. Lawrence Livermore intends to pay for its machine with direct funding. However, the RFP said that lab also reserved the right to use a third-party lease funding arrangement for a portion of the supercomputer, depending on how Congress appropriates funding.

DOE described the new systems as a follow-on to last year’s announcement of the Aurora exascale computer that will go to Argonne National Laboratory in 2021.

The DOE's 2019 budget request includes $636 million for supercomputing programs.

The new RFP, said the agency, is for a collaboration it calls CORAL, for the collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Livermore labs.

Each system must meet the mission needs of DOE’s Office of Science’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program and the Advanced Simulation and Computing Program at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has noted the importance of exascale computer development. He recently completed a tour of all the national labs in California in late March and even autographed the Sierra supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s Computing Center.

The new exascale RFP is being managed for CORAL by UT-Battelle LLC, which operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory.