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Monster computers now online at Lawrence Livermore

IBM's Blue Gene/L has more than 130,000 processors

By Robert McMillan
October 25, 2005 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is now home to two of the most powerful computers on the planet: the ASC Purple supercomputer, and the world's most powerful high-performance machine, Blue Gene/L. Three years in development, the completed versions of the systems have come online over the past few months and will be dedicated Thursday in a ceremony at the nuclear research facility.
Work on the two systems began in 2002, when IBM won a U.S. Department of Energy contract to build the supercomputers, which were intended to restore U.S. prominence in the field of high-performance computing. Blue Gene/L, which has more than 130,000 processors, is being used to study the movement and behavior of molecules. The 12,000-processor ASC Purple is intended for nuclear weapon simulations.
Though Lawrence Livermore has been running smaller versions of the two systems for a while, the laboratory has brought the supercomputers up to their full operational capacity over the past few months, according to Robin Goldstone, a program manager with the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) Advance Simulation and Computing (ASC) program office, which oversees computing in U.S. national laboratories.
The Livermore, Calif.-based laboratory accepted delivery of the full Blue Gene/L system at the end of September, Goldstone said. "It's operational. Like anything else, there are little things that need to be worked out, [but] it's basically being used to solve scientific problems for the NNSA."
The laboratory is putting ASC Purple through a number of "acceptance tests" right now, and it expects to officially accept delivery of the system by year's end, Goldstone said.
Bringing two of the world's most powerful supercomputers online at the same time has been no small technical achievement, Goldstone said. "To integrate one of these machines would have been a huge challenge. To do two of them at the same time is a pretty amazing feat."
Though current benchmark numbers for Blue Gene/L and ASC Purple are not available, both will now most likely rank high on a list of the world's most powerful computers.
Blue Gene/L has a theoretical peak capacity of 367 trillion floating point operations per second (TFLOPS). The system's actual performance is expected to be much lower than that, however. IBM has said it expects Blue Gene/L to be capable of between 270TFLOPS and 280TFLOPS. An early version of Blue Gene/L, which was about half the size of the current system, was ranked as the world's most powerful supercomputer last June, with a processing capacity of 136.8TFLOPS.
ASC Purple has a theoretical peak capacity of 93TFLOPS, about 50% greater than the No. 3-ranked supercomputer,

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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