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Home / Sci & Tech / Project Aurora: U.S Government, Intel aim for nation’s fastest computer

Project Aurora: U.S Government, Intel aim for nation’s fastest computer

On Monday, March 18 (Reuters) A U.S. government-led group is working with chipmaker Intel Corp and Cray Inc to develop and build the nation’s fastest computer by 2021 for conducting nuclear weapons and other research, officials said.

If the project succeeds, Aurora would represent nearly an order of magnitude leap over existing machines that feature so-called petaflop performance, capable of doing one quadrillion or 1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations a second.

One of Aurora’s primary functions would be simulating nuclear blasts, a pillar of weapons development since the ban of live detonation testings.

Aurora will be built with artificial intelligence capabilities for projects such as developing better battery materials and helping the Veterans Administration prevent suicides, Rick Stevens, an associate lab director with Argonne overseeing the exascale computing project, said during a news briefing.

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The project is a win for Intel, which will supply its Xeon CPU chips and Optane memory chips for Aurora.

Intel has been fending off rival U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp’s rise in the chip content of super-computers as the machines take on more artificial intelligence work. Nvidia’s chips are found in five of the world’s current top-10 super-computers, though the Nvidia chips are found alongside chips from its rivals.

The world’s current most powerful machine, the Summit super-computer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp and Nvidia.

Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner who studies the super-computing market, said that despite the small contract size relative to Intel’s overall revenue, the work done on Aurora will eventually filter down to the company’s commercial customers.

It’s not just a jingoistic race between the U.S. and China, Dekate said. The innovations that Intel is developing here will percolate down to other parts of its business.

Source: Reuters Business News by Stephen Nellis

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