Nov. 19, 2001

On Demand Technology

IBM to Build World’s Fastest Supercomputers for U.S. Department of Energy— Approaching a Half a Quadrillion Calculations Per Second, the Machines Are More Powerful Than the World’s 500 Fastest Supercomputers Combined

SUPERCOMPUTING 2002, BALTIMORE, November 19, 2002 — At a press conference later today, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham will announce that The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded IBM a $290 million contract to build the two fastest supercomputers in the world with a combined peak speed of 460 trillion calculations per second (teraflops). The first supercomputer will be used for simulation and modeling in the U.S. nuclear weapons mission. The second system will be focused on research in many important scientific areas, such as predicting global climate change and studying the interaction between atmospheric chemistry and pollution.

These 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. ASCI Purple will consist of a massive cluster of POWER-based IBM eServer™ systems and IBM storage systems.

This supercomputer represents a fifth-generation system under the ASCI Program. ASCI Purple will serve as the primary supercomputer in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Simulation and Computing Initiative, commonly known as ASCI. The DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) 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 IBM semiconductor and system technologies based on new architectures being developed in the ongoing partnership between IBM and the 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 to the data transmitted by ten thousand weather satellites. The supercomputer will be used by the three NNSA laboratories, Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore and the ASCI University Alliance collaborators as well as other DOE laboratories in the future.

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.

"Blue Gene/L represents a leap forward in the ASCI strategies of accelerating computing development," said Mark Seager, assistant director for Advanced Technologies for Livermore’s Computation Directorate. "It’s like having an electron microscope when all the other scientists have a magnifying glass."

The IBM and ASCI collaboration delivers the most reliable and cost-effective platform for the ASCI program while exploring alternative technologies to accelerate the development of high performance systems.

In addition to ASCI Purple, IBM also delivered Livermore’s previous most powerful supercomputers — ASCI White, unveiled in August 2001, and ASCI Blue Pacific, unveiled in October 1998. ASCI Purple will be delivered in stages with the first IBM eServer systems arriving next year.

"We are honored that the U.S. government has once again called upon IBM’s comprehensive technology capability in building the ASCI Purple and Blue Gene/L systems," said Nicholas M. Donofrio, senior vice president, Technology and Manufacturing for IBM. "These systems will be the manifestation of leadership in high-end computing, enabling our nation to not only solve the world's most complex computationally-intensive problems, but also to serve all humankind as they help us uncover breakthrough discoveries in science."

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

Through IBM’s technology advances, high performance computing power can increase while the physical space requirements decrease. ASCI Purple will supply more than eight times the computing power of ASCI White. The new machine will be installed in a dedicated building known as the Terascale Simulation Facility, currently under construction at LLNL in California.

The ASCI Purple system will be powered by 12,544 POWER5 microprocessors, IBM’s next generation microprocessor. These processors will be contained in 196 individual computers with a total memory bandwidth of 156,000 GBs, the equivalent of 31,200 DVD movies every second. All of the computers are interconnected via a super-fast data highway with a total interconnect bandwidth of 12,500 GB. ASCI Purple will run IBM’s AIXL operating system.

ASCI Purple will also contain 50 terabytes of memory (50 trillion units), which is 400,000 times more capacity than the average desktop PC and two petabytes of disk storage (two quadrillion units), the content of approximately one billion books.

IBM will integrate special autonomic self-managing features into the new supercomputer, allowing for ease of administration and greater system reliability. With the IBM self-discovery feature, ASCI Purple will be able to automatically locate and register the thousands of components in the system, freeing administrators to do other tasks. The new POWER5 processors will detect and recover from errors without a technician’s intervention. When the system detects repeated errors it will move the workload to another part of the machine.

The technical innovations in ASCI Purple will benefit commercial as well as technical users. The same self-managing and self-protecting technologies to be used in ASCI Purple will be available for businesses consolidating workloads in an effort to reduce costs, and implementing large parallel databases, e-commerce and business intelligence.

Supercomputers as powerful as ASCI Purple and Blue Gene/L will allow scientists to tackle a number of incredibly complex problems for the first time:

  • ASCI Purple will, for the first time, provide enough memory and computing power to complete a high-fidelity-physics calculation of the explosion of a full weapons system with three dimensional features.
  • Blue Gene/L system will model complete stars in three-dimensions to study how the orbits of binary stars with a high mass ratio become unstable and merge.
  • It will be possible to use advanced quantum simulation techniques employed in first principles molecular dynamics codes to model the physical and chemical properties of matter with great accuracy. One area of particular interest would be repair of DNA sites damaged by radiation — the scientist would now be able to create a model enzyme active site and include a small piece of DNA to be cleaved. Previously such simulations were out of computational reach because of vast memory and computer time requirements.
  • 3D seismic and acoustic wave propagation calculations on Blue Gene/L could be used for numerous diverse projects, including earthquake hazard analysis, oil exploration, nuclear nonproliferation, response of engineered structures, underground structure detection, medical imaging and optics.

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Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and 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.

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