The government laboratory in Illinois will receive the fastest supercomputer in the United States in year 2021.
Aurora is the name of this mammoth machine that will be able to accomplish tasks like simulating complex systems, run artificial intelligence, and conduct materials science research. Supercomputers have many advantages that help us in the real world. For example, crash testing experiments are expensive, complicated and sometimes dangerous. A supercomputer can create a simulation that allows researchers to carry out the tests virtually, and track and change countless variable as they play out. A supercomputer can even simulate a nuclear blast which is best don’t virtually and obviously not in the real world.
You can think about powerful supercomputers as a way to virtually put the world in a digital bottle. Aurora comes online in 2021 and is expected to be the top machine domestically. The US is not the only country investing in supercomputers. The top three fastest machines are located in China, followed by Switzerland and Japan.
A quintillion operations per second is the ability of Aurora, that’s a billion billion written out. This ability is what make Aurora an exaflop machine, which means it will be able to do 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 hard math problems every second. The closest competition is called the Summit, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This supercomputer can hit a peak of 200 petaflops, Aurora should be five times as powerful. This is a massive jump in performance and capability in a very short amount of time.
If you assume that your typical laptop at home can carry out a billion operations per second, Aurora is the equivalent of a billion laptops all connected together. Supercomputers must all be wired in smart ways so that the components are interconnected efficiently, not to mention other practical issues like making sure the hardware is liquid cooled. For a reference point, the Xbox One X is currently the fastest gaming console on the market at around 6 teraflops.
A supercomputer is not just one giant piece, their hardware is in cabinets. In Aurora’s case, it will need around 200 of them at 4 feet wide, 5 feet deep and 7 feet tall. The total area of space that Aurora will need is approximately 6,400 square feet. At a minimum, this supercomputer will take up more space than a regulation size basketball court.