DOE announces ASCI contract

BALTIMORE — Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham on Tuesday announced that International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) has won the $290 million, multi-year contract to build the two fastest supercomputers in the world for the Department of Energy.

Named "Purple" and "BlueGene/L," both systems will be delivered in fiscal year 2005 to the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASCI) program to take science-based stockpile stewardship into its next phase. Both Purple and BlueGene/L will be housed at the Laboratory.

Abraham made the special announcement at the 2002 SuperComputing Conference in Baltimore, the first such visit by an Energy secretary. Linton Brooks, acting administrator of NNSA, and Nick D’Onofrio, senior vice president of technology and manufacturing for IBM, joined the secretary for the announcement. Director Michael Anastasio, Executive Officer Ron Cochran, and ADs Dona Crawford (Computation) and Bruce Goodwin (Defense & Nuclear Technologies) also attended.

"ASCI Purple and BlueGene/L promise to deliver cost-effective, tremendous capability to the Stockpile Stewardship Program’s critical mission to assess and certify the safety, security and reliability of our nation’s nuclear deterrent without underground nuclear testing," Abraham said. "With our world-class scientists at the national defense laboratories teaming with leading U.S. industrial and academic partners, we assure continued confidence in our nuclear stockpile.

"The continued success of the Stockpile Stewardship Program requires advanced computing and experimental capabilities to gain unprecedented understanding of the health of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and the effects of aging and parts replacement over time," Abraham noted. "This program partners the U.S. government and the U.S. industry to bring advanced computer technology to the marketplace and help solve pressing national issues, not only involving nuclear weapons, but also in areas of homeland defense, global diseases and weather prediction."

The two systems will have more than one-and-a-half times the combined processing power of all 500 machines on the recently announced TOP500 List of Supercomputers. The first system — called ASCI Purple — will be the world’s first supercomputer capable of 100 teraflops, almost three times faster than the most powerful computer in existence today.

This supercomputer represents a fifth-generation system under the ASCI Program. ASCI Purple will serve as the primary supercomputer in ASCI. The Stockpile Stewardship Program will rely on ASCI Purple to simulate the aging and operation of U.S. nuclear weapons, ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation’s stockpile without underground testing.

The second supercomputer, a research machine called Blue Gene/L, will employ advanced semiconductor and system technologies based on new architectures being developed in the ongoing partnership between IBM and DOE for the government’s ASCI Program. When completed, Blue Gene/L will have the peak performance of 360 teraflops with 130,000 processors running Linux. It will have the capability to process data at a rate of one terabit per second, equivalent to the data transmitted by 10,000 weather satellites.

Blue Gene/L will develop and run a broad suite of scientific applications including the simulation of very complex physical phenomena of national interest, such as turbulence, biology, and behavior of high explosives.

"This is a vital step in providing the resources to develop high-fidelity, three-dimensional simulations to predict the behavior of aging nuclear weapons for our national security," said Brooks. "The combination of meeting nuclear stewardship demands and enabling scientific and computational research at unprecedented scales is truly significant."

Both Purple and BlueGene/L will be a shared resource for all three national defense laboratories: Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.

"I was very pleased the secretary came to the supercomputing conference to make this announcement," said Director Michael Anastasio.

"ASCI Purple will continue a very successful partnership between IBM and Livermore, building on significant success of IBM’s ASCI White and ASCI Blue Pacific machines. Over eight times larger than ASCI White, the Purple machine will provide scientists at Livermore and at other NNSA laboratories with much-needed and unprecedented levels of supercomputing capability, to meet demanding stockpile deliverables for the Department of Defense."

Crawford noted that Secretary Abraham’s visit to SuperComputing 2002 in Baltimore was the first by a Cabinet level officer to the annual gathering of the international super computing community.

"Secretary Abraham’s visit brought out a huge crowd and generated a great deal of excitement about the role of supercomputing in national security and science research," she said. "Throughout the convention center halls, people were stopping us to congratulate us about ASCI."

Nov. 22, 2002