A supercomputer capable of a quintillion operations a second will go online in 2021 after the US government handed Intel and supercomputer manufacturer Cray a contract to build an exascale computer called Aurora. This machine is being built from the bottom up to run AI at unprecedented scales.

Today’s most powerful supercomputers measure their performance in petaflops—one petaflop is a quadrillion operations per second—but the US, China, and Japan are all racing to be the first to reach the next major milestone of an exaflop early next decade.

That will be a huge leap above current capabilities. The world’s current fastest supercomputer, called Summit, only came online last June, and clocked a top speed of 143.5 petaflops in November. Aurora would be looking for a 7x boost in just a few years.

The news didn’t exactly come out of left field, though. The project…
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