Exascale computing refers to computing systems capable of at least one exaFLOPS, or a billion billion calculations per second. Such capacity represents a thousandfold increase over the first petascale computer that came into operation in 2008. (One exaflops is a thousand petaflops or a quintillion, 1018, floating point operations per second.) At a supercomputing conference in 2009, Computerworld projected exascale implementation by 2018.
Exascale computing would be considered as a significant achievement in computer engineering, for it is believed to be the order of processing power of the human brain at neural level (functional might be lower). It is, for instance, the target power of the Human Brain Project.
China currently has the fastest two supercomputers in the world. China's first exascale supercomputer will enter service by 2020 according to the head of the school of computing at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT). According to the national plan for the next generation of high performance computers, China will develop an exascale computer during the 13th Five-Year-Plan period (2016-2020). The government of Tianjin Binhai New Area, NUDT and the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin are working on the project. The exascale supercomputer is planned to be named Tianhe-3.
In 2008 the United States of America governmental organisations the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration, provided funding to the Institute for Advanced Architectures for the development of an exascale supercomputer ; Sandia National Laboratory and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory were also to collaborate on exascale designs. The technology was expected to be applied in various computation-intensive research areas, including basic research, engineering, earth science, biology, materials science, energy issues, and national security.
By 2012 the United States had allotted $126 million for exascale computing development.
In February 2013 the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity started Cryogenic Computer Complexity (C3) program which envisions a new generation of superconducting supercomputers that operate at exascale speeds based on Superconducting logic. In December 2014 it announced a multi-year contract with International Business Machines, Raytheon BBN Technologies and Northrop Grumman to develop the technologies for C3 program.
On 29 July 2015, President Obama signed an executive order creating a National Strategic Computing Initiative calling for the accelerated development of an exascale system and funding research into post-semiconductor computing. The Exascale Computing Project hopes to build an exascale computer by 2021.
In 2011 several projects aiming at developing technologies and software for exascale computing were started in the EU. The CRESTA project (Collaborative Research into Exascale Systemware, Tools and Applications), the DEEP project (Dynamical ExaScale Entry Platform), and the project Mont-Blanc. A major European project based on exascale transition is the MaX (Materials at the Exascale) project.
In 2015 the Scalable, Energy-Efficient, Resilient and Transparent Software Adaptation (SERT) project, a major research project between the University of Manchester and the STFC Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire, was awarded c. £1million from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The SERT project was due to start in March 2015. It will be funded by EPSRC under the Software for the Future II programme, and the project will partner with the Numerical Analysis Group (NAG), Cluster Vision and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
In Japan, in 2013, the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science began planning an exascale system for 2020, intended to consume less than 30 megawatts. In 2014 Fujitsu was awarded a contract by RIKEN to develop a next-generation supercomputer to succeed the K computer. In 2015, Fujitsu announced at the International Supercomputing Conference that this supercomputer will use processors implementing the ARMv8 architecture with extensions it was co-designing with ARM Limited.
In 2012 the Indian Government has proposed to commit 2.5 billion USD to supercomputing research during the 12th five-year plan period (2012-2017). The project will be handled by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. Additionally, it was later revealed that India plans to develop a supercomputer with processing power in the exaflop range. It will be developed by C-DAC within the subsequent 5 years of approval.
It has been recognized that enabling applications to fully exploit capabilities of Exascale computing systems is not straightforward.  In fact, in June 2014, the stagnation of the Top500 supercomputer list had observers question the possibility of exascale systems by 2020.
- Neuromorphic computing
- Superconducting logic
- Big Data
- Metric prefix
- Computer performance by orders of magnitude
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