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05 November 2004

United States Announces Record-Setting Supercomputer Performance

Energy Department, IBM partner on BlueGene/L to ensure nuclear stockpile safety

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that a supercomputer developed for the nation's nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program has attained a record-breaking performance of 70.72 trillion floating-point operations per second.

According to a November 4 DOE press release, the BlueGene/L (BG/L) supercomputer will ensure the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

Floating point is a way to encode numbers within the limits of precision available on computers. Using floating-point encoding, computers can handle extremely long numbers relatively easily. The number of floating-point operations per second is used as a unit for measuring the speed of computers.

"The delivery of the first quarter of the BlueGene/L system to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory this month shows how a partnership between government and industry can effectively advance national agendas in science, technology, security and industrial competitiveness," said DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham.

Scientific problems in chemistry, physics and materials science require an immense computer-processing capability. For DOE, the BlueGene/L machine is essential for understanding pressing scientific issues including, most prominently, weapons aging.

The supercomputer is a product of a multiyear research and development partnership between DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and IBM.

Text of the DOE press release follows:

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Department of Energy
Press release, November 4, 2004

Secretary Abraham Announces Record Breaking Supercomputer Performance

DOE and IBM partnership on BlueGene/L breaks record on way to full Capability

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham today announced that a supercomputer developed for the nation's Stockpile Stewardship Program has attained a record breaking performance of 70.72 teraFLOP/s (trillion floating point operations per second) on the industry standard LINPACK benchmark. Though the supercomputer is running at one quarter its final size for the Department of Energy, the BlueGene/L (BG/L) beta-System is already asserting US leadership in supercomputing.

A product of a multi-year research and development partnership between the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and IBM, BG/L will support the Stockpile Stewardship Program's mission to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile without underground nuclear testing.

"The delivery of the first quarter of the BlueGene/L system to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory this month shows how a partnership between government and industry can effectively advance national agendas in science, technology, security and industrial competitiveness," said Secretary Abraham. "High performance computing is the backbone of the nation's science and technology enterprise, which is why the Department has made supercomputing a top priority investment. Breakthroughs in applied scientific research are possible with the tremendous processing capabilities provided by extremely scalable computer systems such as BlueGene/L."

Scientific problems in chemistry, physics, and materials science require an immense processing capability but frequently present relatively modest memory requirements. For NNSA and its Advanced Simulation and Computing program, the BlueGene/L machine is essential for understanding pressing scientific issues including, most prominently, weapons aging. Additionally, understanding material properties, higher resolution representations of physics in three-dimensions, and achieving a tighter coupling of computational science with experimental science are all issues that the BG/L architecture is uniquely qualified to support through large-scale calculations.

Secretary Abraham added "BG/L will reduce the time-to-solution for many computational problems, allowing DOE scientists to explore larger, longer, and more complex problems than ever before. For example, a heroic thirty-day calculation on what was the Number 3 supercomputer on the Top 500 list in summer of 2003 would now be completed on this quarter-size BG/L system in about three days."

The final BG/L system will exceed the performance of the Japanese Earth Simulator by a factor of about nine while requiring one-seventh as much electrical power, and one-fourteenth the floor space. These factors are important because they will make it possible for more American university, governmental, and industrial researchers to procure, operate, and use effective supercomputers in the future.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is a national security laboratory managed by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration/Department of Energy. For more information on LLNL, visit www.llnl.gov.

For more information on the Department of Energy, visit www.doe.gov.

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