IBM to build world’s fastest supercomputers for US agency

The US Department of Energy has awarded IBM a contract valued between $216 to $267 million to build the two fastest supercomputers in the world.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded IBM a contract valued at $216 to $267 million to build the two fastest supercomputers in the world with a combined peak speed of up to 467 trillion calculations per second (teraflops).

According to IBM, the two systems will have more combined processing power than the combined power of all 500 machines on the recently announced TOP500 List of Supercomputers.

The first system – called ASCI Purple – will offer the Department of Energy the world’s first supercomputer capable of up to 100 teraflops, more than twice as fast as the most powerful computer in existence today. ASCI Purple will consist of a cluster of POWER-based IBM systems and IBM storage systems.

It is said to represent a fifth-generation system under the ASCI Program. ASCI Purple will serve as the primary supercomputer in the department’s Advanced Simulation and Computing program, commonly known as ASCI.

The DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Stockpile Stewardship Program will rely on ASCI Purple to simulate the ageing and operation of US nuclear weapons.

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 partnership between IBM and the DOE for the US government’s ASCI Program.

When completed, Blue Gene/L will have a theoretical peak performance of up to 367 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 the data transmitted by 10,000 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 be used to develop and run a broad suite of scientific applications including the simulation of very complex physical phenomena of national interest, such as turbulence, prediction of material properties and the behaviour of high explosives.