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Doe Opens Petascale Supercomputing Power

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to releasing a record amount of supercomputing time — 1.3 billion processor hours — starting in 2010, giving scientific researchers the opportunity to run the biggest and most intricate simulations ever to help solve some of science's most difficult and complicated problems.

Scientists will be competing for time on the Cray XT Jaguar system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee and the IBM Blue Gene/P Intrepid system at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, two of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Unlike other DOE supercomputers, the Jaguar and the Intrepid are dedicated to open, unclassified research.

"This is an incredible increase in computing power, which was itself a huge increase from the year before," says DOE's Jeff Sherwood. "It's for research that would not be possible without petascale computing." This year, 900 million processor hours were available, and both supercomputers received significant performance improvements. Jaguar's processor count increased from 31,328 to 180,832 and Intrepid's increased from 32,768 to 163,840. The only supercomputer with more power is IBM's Roadrunner at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is used for nuclear weapons simulations. "These are the only places in the world where you can do these types of simulations," says ORNL's Bronson Messer, who is using the Jaguar to simulate core-collapse supernovae. "In the case of stars and dark matter, there's a lot of physics going on. They're very attractive targets for a big machine like this."

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