The next generation of supercomputers must be capable of a billion billion calculations per second. These are referred to as Exascale computers and with this ability to undertake such volume of calculations, they will transform our understanding of the world through advanced simulation and problem solving. It will take ten million processors working together to achieve Exascale; so how can this be achieved?

A step towards the Exascale vision is being made by a EU funded ExaNeSt project, which is building its first straw man prototype this year. The ExaNeSt consortium consists of twelve partners, each of which has expertise in a core technology needed for innovation to reach Exascale. ExaNeSt takes the sensible, integrated approach of co-designing the hardware and software, enabling the prototype to run real-life evaluations, facilitating its scalability and maturity into this decade and beyond.

Being able to move, process and manage unprecedented volumes of data would allow greater insight into many areas of our lives including climate change, cosmology, drug design, energy safety, national security, material science, medicine and countless other scientific and engineering disciplines. Current technology is faced with many technical limitations in reaching an Exascale architecture. Key barriers are energy and cooling demands, compact packaging, permanent storage, interconnection, resilience and not least application behavior. ExaNeSt addresses these using energy-efficient ARM cores, quiet and power-efficient liquid cooling, non-volatile (e.g. flash) memories integrated into the processor fabric, and the development of innovative, fast interconnects that avoid congestion.

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Next issue: January 2018
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