Skip to main content
Exploring what’s next in tech – Insights, information, and ideas for today’s IT and business leaders

Exascale computing by the numbers

Exascale computing enables discovery and innovation that will profoundly change how we live and work. Here are some resources and stats to get you started.

Mind-bending amounts of data, converging workloads, and the digital transformation race. These are some of the things driving the need for exascale computing. 

Exascale computing will benefit the world through things like personalized medicine, manufacturing innovation, and space, nuclear, and climate research.

October 18 is the first annual Exascale Day. To celebrate, we’ve assembled a short timeline of how we got to where we are today—where a quintillion computations per second is possible. Plus, we've highlighted some related reading to get you up to speed.

Exascale Day webcast and panel discussion

Hear from the technologists who are on point for the first three exascale systems

Six experts discuss all things exascale in this one-hour webcast and panel discussion. Listen to the replay.

Panel: Doug Kothe, ECP; Steve Scott, Cray; Rick Stevens, ANL; Jeff Nichols, ORNL; Michel McCoy, LLNL; Earl Joseph (moderator), Hyperion Research

Exascale computing by the numbers 

1  exaFLOPS—A quintillion (a billion billion) floating-point operations per second (1018 FLOPS).

6—Number of labs involved in the Exascale Computing Project.

6—Number of U.S. technology companies that received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project as part of its new PathForward program, accelerating the research necessary to deploy the nation’s first exascale supercomputers.

2008PetaFLOPS barrier was broken (1015 floating-point operations per second).

March 18, 2019—The U.S. DOE announced Intel and Cray will build Aurora, the first exascale supercomputer in the U.S. It will be delivered to Argonne National Laboratory in 2021.

May 7, 2019—The U.S. DOE announced AMD and Cray will build the Frontier supercomputer for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Frontier is expected to go online in 2021 with 1.5 exaFLOPS of processing power.

Aug. 14, 2019—The U.S. DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced the signing of contracts with Cray to build the NNSA’s first exascale supercomputer, El Capitan. It will have a peak performance of more than 1.5 exaFLOPS, with anticipated delivery in late 2022. The total contract award is valued at $600 million.

18—Number of companies on the Exascale Computing Project’s Industry Council.

1972Cray Research was founded.

1976—First commercial supercomputer, Cray®-1, was installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. It offered 160 megaFLOPS and cost $8.8 million.

~5—Number of years the Cray-1, first shipped in 1976, was the fastest computer in the world.

~1—Number of years it took to assemble a Cray-1, each of which was hand-wired.

4 feet—Length of the longest wire in the Cray-1, with a total of 60-plus miles of wire snaking through it.

256,000,000—Number of 8-byte words of memory (2 GB of memory) supported by the Cray C90, introduced in 1991. Editor’s note: In 1991, that was a very significant amount of memory.

$10 billion—What the major contenders in the exascale race—the U.S., Europe, Japan, and China—together may spend between now and 2022 on developing and purchasing early exascale supercomputers. This is a projection from Hyperion Research based largely on public information.

Watch: Eighteen zeros

The power and the possibilities of exascale computing. Subject matter experts in order of appearance:

Useful links: 

First annual Exascale Day celebrates discoveries on the fastest supercomputers in the world

Exascale Computing Project (ECP)

ECP FAQ sheet

Beyond super: Discovery enters the exascale era 


TOP500 becomes a petaflop club for supercomputers

How Frontier measures up (infographic)

How El Capitan measures up (infographic)

Exascale era changes rules for discover and innovation

Learn more about this new era at

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.