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Energy Department Supercomputer Poised To Be World's Fastest

The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has upgraded its Cray XT-based Jaguar supercomputer. The upgrade will put the machine in the running as the world's fastest supercomputer, as measured by twice-annual Top 500 list of most powerful supercomputers, the next iteration of which will be announced next week.

The upgraded computer has been run at 1.64 petaflops, or quadrillion floating-point operations per second. By comparison, in the last Top 500 count, compiled in June 2008, it benchmarked a peak rate of 260 teraflops, or one trillion floating point operations per second.

In that list, the Los Alamos National Lab's IBM-based Roadrunner ranked at the world's most powerful supercomputer, churning out a peak of 1.37 petaflops.

"Jaguar is one of science's newest and most formidable tools for advancement in science and engineering," Raymond Orbach, the Energy Department's under secretary for science, said in a statement. "It will enable researchers to simulate physical processes on a scale never seen before, and approach convergence for dynamical processes never thought possible."

The system has already run one job that required a sustained performance of 1.3 petaflops.

Most of the work Jaguar will carry out will be on behalf of the Energy Department's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, which grants computer time, on a peer-reviewed basis, to universities, industries and other government agencies. (A summary of some of the largest jobs completed by Jaguar and other INCITE computers may be found here.)

The first version of Jaguar went live in 2006, and was capable of 26 teraflops. Through successive upgrades the system scaled to greater capacities. The most recent version of Jaguar had 84 Cray XT4 blade cabinets.

This new upgrade adds 200 liquid-cooled XT5 blade cabinets into the configuration. The current system is made up of over 45,000 2.3 Ghz quad-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices. It has 362 terabytes of memory and is supported by a 10 petabyte file system.

The Oak Ridge lab designed the system to balance computational power with throughput. The machine provides about 578 terabytes per second of memory bandwidth and an input/output bandwidth.

Oak Ridge will continue to test the machine through next month, and put it into production in early 2009.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News (GCN.com).

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