Lab's new BlueGene/L re-establishes U.S. dominance in supercomputers

Sep. 29, 2004

Lab's new BlueGene/L re-establishes U.S. dominance in supercomputers

IBM's BlueGene/L supercomputer, destined for delivery to the Laboratory starting in November, has surpassed NEC's Earth Simulator in Japan to become the world's most powerful supercomputer, according to IBM.

Using the industry-standard LINPACK benchmark, the IBM Blue Gene/L system attained a sustained performance of 36.01 Teraflops, eclipsing the three-year-old top mark of 35.86 Teraflops for the Japanese Earth Simulator in Yokohama, Japan. The milestone was attained during internal testing at IBM's production facility in Rochester, Minn.

" In July, I predicted that America would reclaim the lead in Supercomputing and today it has," Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said. "Wednesday's announcement that BlueGene/L is now number one is just the tip of the iceberg. This achievement represents a deliberate long-term investment by the Department of Energy in high performance computing technology for U.S. competitiveness. When complete, BlueGene/L will be eight to 10 times faster than the Earth Simulator. America will be safer as this machine will significantly impact the Stockpile Stewardship program by helping to better understand the safety, performance and surety of the enduring National Nuclear Stockpile."

"We're excited by this preview of coming attractions," said Dona Crawford, associate director for Computation. "The DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration have worked hard to bring this project to fruition. Building on a long history of working together on supercomputing projects, the Laboratory and IBM are again forging new frontiers in high performance computing. This will bring important new capabilities to the Laboratory's national security missions for DOE and NNSA."

Delivery of the first BlueGene/L (BG/L) racks to Livermore is scheduled for November with completion in spring of 2005.

"While a one-eighth scale BG/L system has exceeded the performance of the Earth Simulator on the LINPACK benchmark used for the Top 500 list," said Michel McCoy, acting ASC Program leader at LLNL, "the real story is that the final BG/L system, which will be operating at the Lab by summer 2005, will exceed the power of the Earth Simulator by a factor of about eight while requiring one-sixth as much electrical power and one-tenth the floor space.

"Moreover, the system's cost at under $100 million is less than one-fourth of the cost of the Earth Simulator. These represent order of magnitude improvements in multiple dimensions, and orders of magnitude, as opposed to incremental improvements, make for dramatic differences in the kind of programmatic science that can be attempted," McCoy said. "For this reason, this computer is potentially revolutionary, and demonstrates how a government-industry partnership can be very effective in advancing multiple national agendas in technology, science, competitiveness and national security."

Applications for Blue Gene/L include protein science simulations, modeling of the aging and properties of materials and modeling turbulence phenomena.

IBM's team of engineers and researchers continue to expand and test the system in anticipation of the upcoming publication of the Top500 Supercomputer list, which will be announced at the Supercomputing Conference 2004 in Pittsburgh, Penn. in November.

The IBM BlueGene/L supercomputer is a work in progress, with much larger systems planned for installation at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center, as well as the Laboratory.

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.