BlueGene/L retains its title as world’s fastest supercomputer

Jun. 22, 2005

BlueGene/L retains its title as world’s fastest supercomputer

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's BlueGene/L reaffirmed its ranking as the world's most powerful computer on the Top500 list, the leading industry authority for high-performance computing.

The Top500's new list was announced today at the 2005 International Supercomputing Conference in Heidelberg, Germany.

IBM's BlueGene/L system, developed in partnership with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the collaboration of Livermore scientists, retained its No. 1 spot on the list with a sustained performance of 136.8 teraflops (trillion floating operations per second) on the industry standard LINPACK benchmark. This machine is the first system to break the 100 teraflop LINPACK barrier.

A BlueGene system at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York was ranked second on the list with a performance of 91.29 teraflops. NASA's Columbia machine was ranked third, Japan's Earth Simulator fourth and Barcelona's Mare Nostrum fifth. The Laboratory's Thunder machine is seventh on the list, with a sustained performance of 19.94 teraflops.

Housed in the Laboratory's recently completed Terascale Simulation Facility, BlueGene/L is currently at 32 racks, or half its final configuration of 64 racks. Delivery of the final racks and installation will be completed this summer. But work is well under way in bringing the machine to production, and researchers are conducting "first wave" science applications.

"Even as we are bringing the machine to its full configuration, we are doing science critical to NNSA's mission to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. This represents a great team effort led by NNSA's Advanced Simulation and Computing program," said Dona Crawford, associate director for Computation. "Working with our partners at IBM, Los Alamos and Sandia, we are simultaneously advancing scientific discovery and the high-performance computing that makes it possible. The capabilities we are now beginning to apply to our national security missions also will be applicable in other domains."

"The Blue Gene architecture will run certain problems at tremendous speeds, 10 times faster than previously possible," said Dimitri Kusnezov, director of the NNSA ASC program. "Once complete, the National Nuclear Security Administration will have available the kind of national security tool needed to rapidly analyze urgent nuclear weapons stockpile aging issues. It will support broader simulation codes to support certification of our stockpile."

"Looking at the Top500 list we notice that five of the top 10 systems on the list are BG/L machines," said Mark Seager, Computation's leader for Advanced Technologies. "In addition, the scientific results being obtained from BG/L at Livermore are breathtaking. It's very gratifying to be a part of the highly successful ASC partnership with IBM that developed a system that has revolutionized high performance computing. This continues a long-standing Livermore tradition of pioneering scientific computing."

"The key question we're seeking to answer in stockpile stewardship is what happens to nuclear weapons and their components as they age far beyond their original design life. To ensure the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent, we need to be able to predict how weapons materials will age and how aging will affect performance," Seager said. "With BlueGene/L, we can do predictive simulation. We are now developing the computational capability that will allow us to tightly couple simulation with theory and experiment. This is a very exciting time to be at Livermore."

Mike McCoy, program leader for ASC, said the Livermore Computing and Center for Applied Scientific Computing (CASC) computer scientists, who collaborated in the design reviews and are currently working with IBM to install and integrate the machine, have been a critical part of the BGL success story.

"This is the first machine of its kind," he said. "Mark Seager played a key role in influencing the design through extensive design reviews and complex functionality negotiations. He continues to lead the effort to bring the machine to full configuration and to influence the design of the next generation machine (BlueGene/P). Kim cupps and her integration team deserve a great deal of credit for keeping BG/L on track in the face of technical challenges that are an inevitable part of bringing a serial No. 1 system to fruition. Moe Jette, Don Lipari and their teams have been instrumental in writing brilliantly designed open source job launch and scheduling software necessary for a functional multi-user environment."

In announcing the new list, Top500 officials noted that the pace of innovation and performance improvements seen at the very high end of scientific computing shows no sign of slowing down. Half of the top 10 systems on the November 2004 Top500 list were displaced by newly installed systems and the last 201 systems on the list from last November are now too small to be listed any longer.

IBM BlueGene servers across the world now occupy four of the top 10 slots on the Top500 list. LLNL is home to two of the top 10 supercomputers and seven of the top 50.

Steve Louis, assistant department head for Integrated Computing and Communications, accepted the Top500 first place certificate for the Laboratory at the Heidelberg ceremony. Louis, who has been helping scientists get access to BlueGene/L with "first wave applications," co-delivered the keynote address at the conference Thursday with Alan Gara, chief system architect of BG/L for IBM.

The Top500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of the National Energy Research Supercomputing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission to ensure national security and to apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.