Energy Department procures 20 petaflop computer

New machine will be almost 20 times more powerful than today's fastest machine

The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has chosen IBM to build a supercomputer that will be almost 20 times more powerful than today's fastest supercomputer.

To be housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the computer, nicknamed Sequoia, will run 1.6 million IBM Power processors, and is expected to a be able to execute 20 quadrillion floating-point operations per second (20 petaflops). The machine is expected to be fully operational by 2012.

IBM will also provide NNSA with a starter supercomputer to test applications that will be used on Sequoia. Named Dawn, this computer will be operational in 2009 and be capable of executing 500 trillion floating point operations per second (500 teraflops).

Sequoia will occupy 3,422 square feet. Its 98,304 compute nodes will be housed in 96 refrigerator-sized racks, and the compute nodes will be connected with fiber optics. Sequoia will run the Linux operating system. IBM predicts Sequoia will also be an energy-efficient supercomputer able to offer 3,050 calculations per watt of energy.

“These powerful machines will provide NNSA with the capabilities needed to resolve time-urgent and complex scientific problems, ensuring the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent into the future. This endeavor will also help maintain U.S. leadership in high performance computing and promote scientific discovery,” NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino, said in a statement.

NNSA use will use Sequoia to model the state of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, to ensure that it is safely maintained. The Energy Department's Advanced Simulation and Computing program will also use the machine to run very large suites of complex simulations to model the weather and other complex phenomena.

At present, the world's most powerful computer is widely thought to be the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roadrunner, another IBM system that topped the most recent Top 500 ranking of the world's most powerful computers. Roadrunner is a 129,000 processor machine with a sustain performance of more than 1.1 petaflops.

IBM will build and test the machine at its Rochester, Minn. plant.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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