Aurora Update from Argonne, and a Look at Leadership Supercomputing on the Horizon

These are heady days at Argonne National Laboratory — more particularly, at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, which we visited earlier this week. To accommodate the ALCF’s new exascale system, Aurora, now undergoing installation, the ALCF built more than a computer room, it added a computer wing — a computer building — to the facility. As system footprints go, Aurora is impressive. As a follow-up, we talked with ALCF leaders Rick Stevens (Associate Laboratory Director and Argonne Distinguished Fellow) and Mike Papka (Deputy Associate Laboratory Director and ALCF Director) about the Intel-powered system built on the HPE-Cray supercomputing architecture. Both struck an optimistic, forward-looking tone talking about the stready stream of Aurora blades arriving from Intel and the filling in of row upon row of Aurora cabinets. They also provide an installation timetable, beginning with “Sunspot,” Aurora’s test development system. Stevens and Papka also discuss the challenge — one of the top challenges in HPC these days — of evaluating the plethora of advanced, AI chips (SambaNova, Groq, etc.) at the lab’s AI Testbed. Finally and fascinatingly, Stevens and Papka provide a look forward as they sketch a portrait of DOE’s next-generation leadership supercomputers, as outlined in the agency’s RFI (request for information) document issued in June.