CWmike writes "As amazing as today's supercomputing systems are, they remain primitive and current designs soak up too much power, space and money. And as big as they are today, supercomputers aren't big enough — a key topic for some of the estimated 11,000 people now gathering in Portland, Ore. for the 22nd annual supercomputing conference, SC09, will be the next performance goal: an exascale system. Today, supercomputers are well short of an exascale. The world's fastest system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, according to the just released Top500 list, is a Cray XT5 system, which has 224,256 processing cores from six-core Opteron chips made by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD). The Jaguar is capable of a peak performance of 2.3 petaflops. But Jaguar's record is just a blip, a fleeting benchmark. The US Department of Energy has already begun holding workshops on building a system that's 1,000 times more powerful — an exascale system, said Buddy Bland, project director at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility that includes Jaguar. The exascale systems will be needed for high-resolution climate models, bio energy products and smart grid development as well as fusion energy design. The latter project is now under way in France: the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, which the US is co-developing. They're expected to arrive in 2018 — in line with Moore's Law — which helps to explain the roughly 10-year development period. But the problems involved in reaching exaflop scale go well beyond Moore's Law."
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