XPRESS Project Focuses on High-Performance OS

Sandia's XPRESS project strives to create an operating system that will enable exascale computing by 2020.

Sandia National Laboratories XPRESS (eXascale Programming Environment and System Software) project is designing an operating system that can handle the million trillion mathematical operations per second of future exascale computers.

“The project’s goal is to devise an innovative operating system and associated components that will enable exascale computing by 2020, making contributions along the way to improve current petaflop (a million billion operations a second) systems,” said Sandia program lead Ron Brightwell.

According to the announcement, the XPRESS project will address specific factors known to degrade supercomputer performance. One such factor is called starvation, or “the insufficiency of concurrent partial problem-solving at particular processing locations,” which hinders efficiency and scalability by requiring more parallelism. The team will work to reduce other factors, such as latency, overhead, and waiting time, which occurs when the same memory is needed by several processors.

“System software on today’s parallel-processing computers is largely based on ideas and technologies developed more than twenty years ago, before processors with hundreds of computing cores were even imagined,” said Brightwell. “The XPRESS project aims to provide a system software foundation designed to maximize the performance and scalability of future large-scale parallel computers, as well as enable a new approach to the science and engineering applications that run on them.”

The XPRESS project is funded at US$ 2.3 million a year for three years by DOE’s Office of Science. The project team includes Sandia National Laboratories, Indiana University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Louisiana State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Houston, University of North Carolina, and University of Oregon.