Red Storm to rise at Energy lab

Red Storm to rise at Energy lab

The name 'Red Storm' evokes a Tom Clancy bestseller, but for the Energy Department, it means a new supercomputer. Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., yesterday announced a $90 million agreement with Cray Inc. of Seattle for a massively parallel processing system to simulate the aging process of nuclear weapons.

The system will be part of the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative, through which Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration have been funding progressively larger simulation computers.

Red Storm will have a theoretical peak performance of 20 trillion or 40 trillion operations per second, depending on whether it's making one or two calculations per clock cycle, said William J. Camp, Sandia's director of computers, computation, information and mathematics. That speed would make Red Storm the fastest computer in ASCI and the second fastest computer ever, only slightly behind a Japanese system called the Earth Simulator.

The system, slated for completion in fiscal 2004, will use more than 10,000 of the forthcoming Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. The processors have two floating-point units each, and some applications can use both units, Camp said.

Sandia's main requirement for Red Storm was that it perform real-world scientific simulations seven times as fast as the ASCI Red supercomputer, the last built by Intel Corp. As Sandia's first big nuclear-weapons simulator, ASCI Red held the title of world's fastest computer for three years during the 1990s, but it now ranks seventh on an international list of big computers.

A Sandia team, led by Camp and technical staff member Jim Tomkins, designed Red Storm's high-level architecture. Cray will engineer it to the lab's specifications with an open-standard, high-bandwidth mesh interconnect called HyperTransport. Red Storm will have about 10T of memory and 240T of disk storage, Camp said.

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