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On the Practicality of an ExaFLOPS Computer System by 2020

The view from Steve Wallach, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, Convey Computer

The minimum and maximum boundaries of what it will take to get an exascale system are pretty well established. For example, there are well-defined limits on the power consumption and space of an exascale datacenter. And we know what a petaFLOPs system looks like (because there several on the Top500 list). So it should be relatively easy to explore the probabilities (literally) of developing technologies to take us from petaFLOPs to exaFLOPs. In fact, let’s go one better: let’s explore what it takes to deploy a system that sustains one exaFLOPs (EFLOPs) on the NxN Linpack. (After all, everyone knows that the system peak performance doesn’t matter — it’s Linpack performance that makes it real!)

Any thoughts on the hardware architecture of an exascale system must be complemented by thoughts on the programming model. In DOE Exascale Initiate parlance, the hardware/software environment must be co-designed. Thus, our exploration of exascale realms includes considerations of the programming model and what it will take to deploy applications.

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