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Photo: AMD

Chipmaker AMD, long in Intel's shadow, will be at the heart of one of the world's most powerful new supercomputers, a new Cray machine being built for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Why it matters: Though such large-scale computers represent a tiny fraction of the market, they still power advanced basic research — and confer bragging rights on those institutions, companies and, increasingly, nations whose devices top the annual rankings.

Details:

  • The contract between the DOE and Cray is valued at $600 million.
  • The system, known as Frontier, is planned to debut in 2021 and is expected to be the world’s most powerful computer, with a performance of greater than 1.5 exaflops. (An exaflop is a quintillion, or a billion billion, calculations per second.)
  • Frontier will be housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee. It will use more than 90 miles of cable and occupy 7,300 square feet.

What they're saying:

"The biggest battle used to be between vendors, but the new high-performance computing bragging rights are between countries, specifically China versus the U.S."
"China came out of nowhere to get to the top of the high-performance rankings, but the U.S. has reacted swiftly with its exascale commitments."
— Patrick Moorhead, analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

Frontier is also a big deal for both AMD and Oak Ridge.

  • AMD has been seeking to boost its presence in the data center.
  • "This significantly improves AMD's standing," Moorhead says. "This specific supercomputer won't be operational until 2021, so this choice wasn’t based on what is in market today, but in 2021."
  • This, he adds, shows that AMD should be competitive in high-end computing for the next couple of years.
  • Meanwhile, Oak Ridge has worked hard to be home to the world's most powerful supercomputers, having done so three times previously since 2005 (with its Jaguar, Titan and Summit machines).

The big picture: The other wrinkle in the supercomputer battle is the challenge that the big, pricey computers themselves face as Amazon's AWS, Microsoft's Azure and Google's Cloud offer much of the same performance.

  • In some cases, they even offer some of the security benefits without the upfront cost of building your own supercomputer.
  • "Traditional supercomputers are still very important for reduced latency, but AWS and Azure are starting to offer these capabilities," Moorhead says.
  • Meanwhile, both Amazon and Microsoft have shown a willingness to build government-only data centers if there's enough significant business.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. presses Gulf countries to help resolve Sudan coup crisis

Jake Sullivan briefs the press. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Biden administration has asked its partners in the Gulf and elsewhere to press the Sudanese generals who carried out a coup on Monday to release captives including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and to reinstate the civilian government, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited influence over coup leader Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and other military leaders, many of whom have close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.