Report: Non-Proprietary Companion to the Q1 CY2021 PathForward Final Assessment

The PathForward element of Exascale Computing Project was established to prepare the US industry for exascale system procurements and generally improve US competitiveness in the worldwide 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.

All six selected responses successfully led to contracts that were awarded and announced in June 2017. The six attendees 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 have subsequently completed all contract milestones.

The quantity and breadth of the work and milestones across six contracts presented a challenge for ECP to ensure the work was properly reviewed and feedback provided to the contract awardees in a timely fashion. The PathForward program engaged working groups for each contract, with members from each of the six core ECP DOE national laboratories tasked with ensuring the reviews were performed effectively by subject matter experts from across those institutions.

As of October 13, 2021, the 267 milestones across all projects are completed. The number of milestones completed by the awardees is not comparable with each other because the nature and scope of the milestones vary substantially. Thus, the number of milestones and their costs varies both within and, particularly, across the PathForward projects.

ECP has issued a report that serves as a companion to the deliverable for the ECP milestone PM-HI-1040, Assess PathForward Impact Against Exascale Hardware Challenges. The report summarizes the final status of each PathForward project, describes progress achieved against PathForward contract milestones, and includes a final assessment of each vendor’s progress on key exascale challenges.

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

The report is available through the US Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information.