The exascale computing project publishes a follow-up report on its PathForward program

February 28, 2022 – The PathForward element of the exascale computing project was created to prepare U.S. industry for purchases of exascale systems and generally improve U.S. competitiveness in the global computing market.

A competitive PathForward RFP (request for proposals) was released in 2016, seeking responses to improve application performance and developer productivity while maximizing the energy efficiency and reliability of an exascale system. Following a response review process, six responses were selected for award and contract negotiations began.

The six selected responses resulted in contracts that were awarded and announced in June 2017. The six entrants were Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Cray Inc. (Cray) (subsequently acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise [HPE]), HPE, International Business Machines (IBM), Intel Corp. (Intel) and NVIDIA Corp. (NVIDIA). All subsequently completed all stages of the contract.

The amount and scale of work and milestones across the six contracts presented a challenge for ECP to ensure work was properly reviewed and feedback provided to contract awardees in a timely manner. The PathForward program has engaged working groups for each contract, with members from each of the six major ECP DOE national laboratories responsible for ensuring that the reviews are performed efficiently by subject matter experts from all of these institutions.

As of October 13, 2021, all 267 milestones for all projects have been completed. The number of milestones reached by the winners is not comparable between them because the nature and scope of the milestones vary considerably. Thus, the number of steps and their costs vary both within and, in particular, between PathForward projects.

ECP has released a report that accompanies the ECP milestone deliverable PM-HI-1040, Assess PathForward Impact Against Exascale Hardware Challenges. The report summarizes the end state of each PathForward project, outlines progress against PathForward contract milestones, and includes a final assessment of each vendor’s progress on key exascale challenges.

This companion report details PathForward research findings to the extent possible without disclosing proprietary information and the impact of US exascale products and systems. Additionally, it captures lessons learned to inform future projects in general and in high performance computing in particular.

The report is available from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Source: Exascale Calculation Project

Sherry J. Basler