Exascale computing is transforming our ability to solve some of the world's most difficult and important problems.

On October 18, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is celebrating the fifth National Exascale Day.

The holiday was created in 2019 as an initiative of DOE’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) and Cray, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, to honor scientists and researchers who will make groundbreaking discoveries with the help of some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, such as Frontier, the world’s first exascale machine.

Frontier, an HPE Cray EX system, debuted in May 2022 at No. 1 on the TOP500 list. Managed by the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL, Frontier opened to users in early 2023.

The performance of exascale computers is measured in exaflops. One exaflop equals one quintillion calculations per second, which is mathematically notated as 10^18.

Learn about the promise of exascale and discover Frontier below!

HPE celebrates Exascale Day 2023

In 2016, ECP set out to develop advanced software for the arrival of exascale-class supercomputers capable of a quintillion (10^18) or more calculations per second. That meant rethinking, reinventing, and optimizing dozens of scientific applications and software tools to leverage exascale’s thousand-fold increase in computing power. That time has arrived as Frontier opens to users around the world. “Exascale’s New Frontier” explores the applications and software technology for driving scientific discoveries in the exascale era.

Exascale’s New Frontier: ExaSMR

The ExaSMR toolset integrates the most accurate computer codes for modeling the different physics involved in nuclear reactors – OpenMC and Shift for neutron particle transport and reactor depletion, and NekRS for thermal fluid dynamics. The ExaSMR team has optimized these codes for exascale supercomputers, aiming to provide design engineers with the highest resolution simulations of nuclear systems to date. ExaSMR also promises much faster turnaround times and the ability to perform a larger number of simulations – and in turn advance the future of fission power much sooner.

Exascale’s New Frontier: WDMApp

The research facility ITER is destined to be the world’s largest fusion reactor once its construction is completed in southern France in 2025. The key to producing successful fusion reactions at ITER is the design of its tokamak, a machine that uses massive magnetic coils around a donut-shaped chamber to shape and control charged plasma particles formed from hydrogen fuel. To obtain sustainable energy confinement, which enables the performance of a fusion reactor, researchers need to predict the kinetic turbulence of the plasma in their tokamak designs. To help understand how to run ITER for optimal efficiency and safety, the ECP’s WDMApp (Whole Device Model Application) effort will provide the most complete models so far of gyrokinetic turbulence within tokamaks. WDMApp combines two advanced gyrokinetic codes that are optimized for the core plasma.

Exascale’s New Frontier: WarpX

Plasma-based particle accelerators with high-intensity lasers are an experimental technology that promises to be smaller and cheaper to construct than conventional radio-frequency accelerators, but the challenge of controlling plasmas is considerable because of their inherent complexity and impact of turbulence on their structure and evolution. Primarily developed to simulate plasma-based particle accelerators, WarpX is the first particle-in-cell code for kinetic plasma simulations that is optimized for parallel computing on CPU- and GPU-based computers incorporating mesh refinement. It produces faster, larger, and higher-fidelity 3D models of laser-matter interactions.

Exascale Drives Industry Innovation for a Better Future

For GE Research, exascale computers at DOE are a useful tool for testing new engine designs to reduce emissions.

A rendering of the CFM RISE program’s open fan architecture. (bottom) A GE visualization of turbulent flow in the tip region of an open fan blade using the Frontier supercomputer at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Image Credit: CFM, GE Research (CFM is a 50¬–50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines)

2023 ACM Gordon Bell Nominations

The ACM Gordon Bell Prize is awarded each year to a project or research that demonstrates outstanding achievement in high-performance computing, with a particular emphasis on rewarding innovation. This year, two of the six finalists used Frontier in their research.

ExaSMR Nominated for 2023 ACM Gordon Bell Prize

The ECP-support ExaSMR software stack produces the highest-resolution nuclear reactor simulations yet by leveraging exascale supercomputers.

“Winning a Gordon Bell Prize was one of the longshot goals from the beginning of the ExaSMR project, so being named a finalist in collaboration with the ECP’s Center for Efficient Exascale Discretizations project this year is a huge accomplishment for the team,” said Steven Hamilton, ExaSMR project leader and R&D scientist in the HPC Methods for Nuclear Applications group at ORNL.

Pioneering Frontier

The “Pioneering Frontier” series features stories profiling the many talented ORNL employees behind the construction and operation of the OLCF’s exascale supercomputer, Frontier. Expand the sections below to follow the journey to Frontier. 

David Grant guides both design and construction of the mechanical systems that will be serving Frontier. Read more.
Veteran electrical engineer Rick Griffin wires the nation’s most powerful supercomputers. Read more.
Denise Hoomes helps maintain the scope, schedule, and budget for the nation’s first exascale supercomputer. Read more.
Deputy Project Director Matt Sieger organizes the massive effort to install Frontier on schedule. Read more.
How Jason Hill and the risk management team are working to keep Frontier on track amid supply line disruptions and a worldwide shutdown. Read more.
OLCF Computational Scientist Reuben Budiardja prepares Frontier’s programming environments. Read more.
How David Bernholdt and the programming environment team are working to deliver Frontier’s promised precision. Read more.
How Tom Papatheodore and the system acceptance team are preparing Frontier for prime time. Read more.
Matt Belhorn ensures Frontier’s software tools are installed correctly and operate smoothly. Read more.
Suzy Tichenor helps industry users access the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s systems, including Frontier, the nation’s first exascale supercomputer. Read more.
A team led by Matt Ezell is working to configure and optimize the nation’s next top supercomputer. Read more.
John Gounley is ensuring the success of deep learning codes for cancer research on the nation’s first exascale system. Read more.
Markus Eisenbach is developing the Locally Self-Consistent Multiple Scattering code for Frontier’s novel architecture. Read more.
The OLCF’s Justin Whitt has directed the trailblazing Frontier supercomputer project since 2017. Read more.
Rafael Ferreira da Silva is designing the scientific workflow applications and tools that run on the nation’s fastest supercomputers. Read more.
Bronson Messer marshals computational scientists around the world to launch their exascale-ready codes on Frontier. Read more.