IBM to Build DOE Supercomputers

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2002-11-19

IBM to Build DOE Supercomputers

IBM has been tapped by the U.S. Department of Energy to build the two fastest supercomputers in the world.

Under the $290 million contract, IBM will build one computer that will be used for simulation and modeling work in connection with the countrys nuclear weapons program. The other will be used in scientific research to help predict changes in the global climate and track the relationship between the atmosphere and pollution.

The Armonk, N.Y., company expects to deliver the supercomputers over the next two to three years, with the first IBM eServers being delivered for one system sometime next year, according to Ravi Arimilli, an IBM fellow in Austin, Texas.

The Department of Energy is making the announcement on Tuesday at the Supercomputing 2002 show in Baltimore.

Combined, the two supercomputers—named the ASCI Purple and the Blue Gene/L—will provide a peak speed of 460 trillion calculations per second, and will have more than one-and-a-half times the combined processing power of all 500 computers currently on the Top500 list of supercomputers, according to IBM.

"Most trends you see in the industry are slowing down, but in the supercomputing environment, you see just the opposite," Arimilli said.

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ASCI—for the DOEs Advanced Simulation and Computing Initiative—Purple will run about eight times faster than the last supercomputer IBM built for the DOE, in 2001, and will work at a speed close to that of the human brain, IBM said. It will reach a peak speed of 100 teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second. It will be a massive cluster of IBM eServers and storage systems powered by 12,544 Power5 microprocessors. The chips will be contained in 196 individual computers, linked together via an interconnect with a bandwidth of 12,500GB. It will run IBMs AIXL operating system and hold 50TB of memory.

ASCI Purple will enable the DOEs Lawrence Livermore laboratory to simulate nuclear weapons explosions without having to actually detonate any test weapons, according to IBM.

The Blue Gene/L will have a peak performance of 360 teraflops with 130,000 chips for use at the DOEs Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore labs. It will be used for massive calculations in areas such as life sciences and global climate change.

Both computers will contain self-healing, autonomic features, such as the ability to reroute work around a failing chip and reassign work within the computer depending on demand, IBMs Arimilli said.

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