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World's Fastest Supercomputer Streaks to 183.5 Teraflops

By Susan B. Shor
Mar 25, 2005 9:28 AM PT

The IBM supercomputer BlueGene/L has done it again, almost doubling its already world record-breaking speed to 183.5 teraflops -- or 183.5 trillion floating point calculations -- per second.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is building the computer to help simulate the condition of the nation's nuclear stockpile. The project is halfway done and now contains 32 racks with 1,024 dual-core IBM Power chips. It is expected to be complete by July, NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes told TechNewsWorld. The record-breaking performance was attained at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of three NNSA labs.

World's Fastest Supercomputer Streaks to 183.5 Teraflops

Another Doubling To Come

"Essentially it's only halfway built," Wilkes said. "Once it's together and fully operating it's really going to be knocking it out." BlueGene is expected to be able to process 367 teraflops per second when it is complete.

The computer, designed by IBM to pack more compute power into a smaller package, has already been used by Lawrence Livermore researchers to perform nuclear dynamics simulations.

The NNSA will need all the computing power BlueGene can muster when it is fully built, Wilkes said, because of the complicated calculations necessary to understand the effects of aging on the United States' nuclear weapons cache. "At the NNSA, we need certain data that we would normally get from an underground nuclear test," he said.

Testing Through Computers

A moratorium on nuclear testing first enacted by President George H.W. Bush and extended by Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush means that the date must come from calculations.

"Our primary mission is to make sure the nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable. To do that, we have to understand what's happening with the weapons as they age," Wilkes said.

The 183.5 teraflop speed was achieved on the industry standard Linpack benchmark, which tests peak performance. BlueGene's previous high mark was 92 teraflops, which it reached in November to become the world's fastest supercomputer. It surpassed NEC's Earth Simulator, a Japanese machine that had held the title of fastest computer since June 2002. It reached speeds of 35.9 teraflops.

BlueGene can sustain a speed of 135.5 teraflops; previously it could sustain a speed of 70.7 teraflops.

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