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Anton 3 Cracks Molecular Dynamics

October 12, 2021

Author: Aakash Jani

After founding a successful hedge fund and becoming a billionaire, David E. Shaw has spent the last two decades quietly building highly specialized supercomputers. Anton 3, as the name suggests, is the third generation in a family of molecular-dynamics ASICs that D.E. Shaw Research has been developing for two decades. Through its Anton systems, the company has worked to accelerate pharmaceutical research. Customers can access Anton 1 and 2 by renting supercomputer time or by purchasing systems for internal use.

Each Anton 3 chip has 528 custom CPUs and 528 specialized pairwise interaction accelerators. It employs serdes lanes for high-bandwidth chip-to-chip communications as well as custom compression algorithms to further boost bandwidth. The 500W chip is manufactured in a 7nm TSMC process. D.E. Shaw Research received engineering samples in 3Q20 and ramped production for internal use. Although the chip is designed to simulate molecules, it shows how custom accelerators can deliver order-of-magnitude performance gains in other scientific areas.

David Shaw, a real-life Iron Man, is better known as the founder of the D.E. Shaw hedge fund, which manages $55 billion in assets. But before becoming one of the original Wall Street “quants” in the 1980s, he earned a PhD from Stanford University and researched massively parallel computing. In 2001, he left his hedge-fund career and returned to his first love, launching his eponymous research company. D.E. Shaw Research has a staff of about 100 people, with backgrounds in hardware design, life sciences, and applied mathematics. Additionally, Shaw is a Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University, focusing on computational biology.

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