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Methods of generating more powerful solutions to really big computer problems like climate modeling are being explored because although Moore’s Law is still applicable it is nearing the limits of physical possibility.

Michael Wehner

Michael Wehner

Michael Wehner, Climate Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, spoke to these problems at a CITRIS lecture. DOE is targeting an Exaflop computer system by about the year 2016 but if the present chip technologies are used the price of electric power becomes a major design limitation. He was talking about computers using 60-180 megawatts of energy running near continuously permanently. A rough estimate of the cost of electricity is $1 million per megawatt per year. One of these big computers is going to consume serious amounts of electricity and money. See DOE E3 Report 2008, DARPA Exascale Report (in production), LBNL UHPCA Climate Simulator Study 2008. What is needed is a fundamentally new approach to new computing design.

Wehner then talked about a new applicaton approach called Green Flash which is designing new computers based on a similar technology to that used in tiny cell phone type of computer chips rather than the large type of chips typically found in personal computers or mainframe computers. Massive amounts of these tiny chips would be integrated into a large field of independent but interacting chips. These chips could be operated at a slower clock rate and save power and they would be specifically designed to perform specialized tasks and that would make them much more efficient and consume less power.