New Frontier for computing at Oak Ridge

08 May 2019

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a USD600 million investment in a new supercomputer, to be named Frontier. It said the machine would enable "extreme scale scientific endeavours" to lead to "breakthroughs in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness and national security."

One of ExaSMR's simulation outputs (Image: ORNL)

The machine will be set up at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, which is a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and be ready for science "from day one" in 2021, said Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) director Thomas Zacharia. DOE said Frontier would be the world's fastest computer and capable of more than one quintillion calculations per second. It follows DOE computers Jaguar, Titan and Summit, each of which was the world's fastest when new.

Frontier will comprise 100 Cray Shasta cabinets packed with AMD EPYC processors and Radeon Instinct GPU accelerators. With four GPUs for each CPU, the machine is expected to excel in data heavy applications and artificial intelligence.

ORNL's ExaSMR project is expected to benefit. It conducts Monte Carlo simulations of small modular reactors (SMRs), but has been limited to simulating start-up conditions. With Frontier's power, said ExaSMR principal investigator Steve Hamilton, the team will be able to simulate conditions at any stage of an SMR's lifespan.

Amitava Bhattacharjee of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory said it would enable his team to "attempt a whole device model of a tokamak plasma at high fidelity using equations that cover the entire domain of the plasma. The predictions we can make from these kinds of simulations are really important for Iter to achieve its highest potential."

The architecture will enable more accurate simulations of the minute structures and loads in 3-D printed materials, said John Turner of ORNL. Jacqueline Chen of Sandia National Laboratories said she would use Frontier's high fidelity simulations, combined with machine learning and AI, to model the processes of the compression ignition engine.

DOE said these and other researchers will be able to transfer their work from Summit to Frontier seamlessly when the new machine comes online.

The USD600 million contract covers technology development, a centre of excellence, several early-delivery systems, the main Frontier system, and multi-year systems support. The main system is expected to be delivered in 2021, with acceptance following in 2022.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News