DARPA Challenge to Inspire 40x Power Efficiency Improvement for Supercomputers

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Eric Smalley from Discover Magazine describes how researchers are stepping up to a DARPA Challenge to construct a Petaflop supercomputer by 2018 that consumes no more than 57 kilowatts of electricity.

The teams that survive the initial design, simulation, and prototype-building phases may earn a chance to build a full-scale supercomputer for Darpa. Making the cut will demand a total rethink of computer design. Nearly everything a conventional computer does involves schlepping data between memory chips and the processor (or processors, depending on the machine). The processor carries out the programming code for jobs such as sorting email and making spreadsheet calculations by drawing on data stored in memory. The energy required for this exchange is manageable when the task is small—a processor needs to fetch less data from memory. Supercomputers, however, power through much larger volumes of data—for example, while modeling a merger of two black holes—and the energy demand can become overwhelming. “It’s all about data movement,” said Sandia’s Richard Murphy

Four teams from Intel, Nvidia, Sandia and MIT are currently competing, but the final solution may incorporate multiple technologies derived from the competition. Read the Full Story.


  1. 40x ? Isn’t the exascale goal – supposedly by 2018 – 1,000x ?? Does this add about another 30-40 years to us seeing an exascale system?