Aug 24 (Reuters) – The US Department of Energy is about to make a deal to buy a supercomputer powered by Nvidia Corp. chips (NVDA.O) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O) as a key laboratory waiting for a larger supercomputer from Intel Corp. (INTC.O) That was delayed by months, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Named Polaris, the Nvidia and AMD machine will not be a replacement for the Intel-based Aurora machine that was slated for the Argonne National Lab near Chicago and will be the nation’s fastest computer when it is announced in 2019 should.
Instead, Polaris, which will go online this year, will be a test machine for Argonne to begin preparing its software for the Intel machine, people familiar with the matter said.
Argonne spokesman Ben Schiltz did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did AMD spokesman Aaron Grabein. Nvidia spokesman Ken Brown declined to comment.
Intel, AMD and Nvidia are fighting for market share for chips used in data centers. The United States’ supercomputers do science for health, climate, and other researchers, and run virtual tests on the country’s nuclear weapons.
Key technologies that are groundbreaking in the systems often seep into commercial data centers in the following years, which gives the chip companies that win the contract work an advantage.
When Aurora was first announced, Intel and Argonne said the machine would ship in 2021, but Intel still hasn’t shipped key chips from Ponte Vecchio and Sapphire Rapids. Intel said in June that the Sapphire Rapids chips would not go into production until 2022, and on Tuesday, Intel spokesman Will Moss said the company was still determined to ship the computer in 2022.
The $ 500 million contract required Intel and partners to deliver a computer with exaflop performance, or the ability to perform a trillion – or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 – calculations per second. Now, the first exascale computer in the United States will likely be another machine in another laboratory – the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee – built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (HPE.N) with chips from AMD, which are expected to be shipped this year.
The Polaris machine in Argonne won’t be as powerful as the Intel machine, the sources said. Based on the A100 chips from Nvidia and the Rome and Milan chips from AMD, the Polaris calculator will be able to do some exaflop calculations, but will mostly work at slower speeds.
Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Edited by Peter Henderson and Jonathan Oatis
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