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Labs Jockey for Top Supercomputer Honors

The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory now runs the world's most powerful supercomputer, according to the latest rankings from Top500.org

The lab recently upgraded the Cray XT5-based supercomputer, nicknamed Jaguar, so that it could perform 2.3 petaflops, or thousand trillion floating point operations per second. This improvement was enough to speed Jaguar past the nearest contender for the top spot, Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roadrunner supercomputer, which maxed out at 1.37 petaflops for this round.

In the November 2008 Top500 count, Roadrunner enjoyed the distinction of being the first supercomputer to break the petaflop level.

Jaguar's upgrade was funded by $19.9 million Recovery Act grant, according to the Oak Ridge statement. Researchers will use the additional capacity to build simulations to explore new energy-producing technologies and to better understand climate change.

"Our computational center works closely with the science teams to effectively use a computer system of this size and capability," said James Hack, director of Oak Ridge's National Center for Computational Sciences, in a statement.

Jaguar has a total of 255,584 processor cores, or 37,376 AMD six-core Istanbul Opteron 2.6 gigahertz processors and 7,832 AMD four-core Budapest Opteron 2.1 Ghz processors. It has Infiniband interconnects, 362 terabytes of system memory and a 10-petabyte Lustre-based file system.

Overall, 277 of the 500 systems listed reside in the United States, down from 291 in the June 2009 ranking. U.S. federal government supercomputers occupied six of the 10 top spots on the list.

The federal government's dominance of the Top500 list represents a concerted effort on the part of DOE to beef up the country's supercomputing power. Earlier in the decade, lawmakers were concerned that the United States was losing its technological edge and feared that the country would fall behind in industrial development and academic research.

Participation in the Top500 list is voluntary. Organizations submit their benchmarks for inclusion. Researchers at the University of Mannheim, Germany; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville compile the list.

About the Author

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

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