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. 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.
The only bad news is that we need more than exascale computing. Some of the key computational challenges, that face not just individual companies, but civilisation as a whole, will be enabled by exascale computing.
Everyone is concerned about climate change and climate modelling. The computational challenge for doing oceanic clouds, ice and topography are all tremendously important. And today we need at least two orders of magnitude improvement on that problem alone.
Controlled fusion – a big activity shared with Europe and Japan – can only be done with exascale computing and beyond. There is also medical modelling, whether it is life sciences itself, or the design of future drugs for every more rapidly changing and evolving viruses – again it’s a true exascale problem.
Exascale computing is really the medium and the only viable means of managing our future. It is probably crucial to the progress and the advancement of the modern age.
The Sunway TaihuLight is a Chinese supercomputer which, as of June 2016, is ranked number one in the TOP500 list as the fastest supercomputer in the world, with a LINPACK benchmark rating of 93 petaflops. This is nearly three times as fast as the previous holder of the record, the Tianhe-2, which ran at 34 petaflops. As of June 2016, it is also ranked as the third most energy-efficient supercomputer in TOP500, with an efficiency of 6,051.30 MFLOPS/W. It was designed by the National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC) and is located at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi in the city of Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, China.