IBM to build massive supercomputer for U.S. government
Remember Roadrunner's 1 petaflop? The new system will reach 20 petaflops
It's an ambitious claim by IBM in a business where jumbo-size claims are the norm. The planned Sequoia system, capable of 20 petaflops, will be used by the U.S. Department of Energy in its nuclear stockpile research. The fastest systems today can only reach 1 petaflop, a remarkable achievement in its own right that was met only last year.
It "is the biggest leap of computing capability ever delivered to the lab," said Mark Seager, assistant department head for advanced technology at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., where the system will be housed. It's expected to be up and running in 2012.
IBM is actually building two supercomputers under this contract. The first one, to be delivered by midyear, is called Dawn and will operate at around 500 teraflops. Researchers will use Dawn to help prepare for the larger system.
Sequoia will use approximately 1.6 million processing cores, all IBM Power chips, running Linux, which dominates high-performance computing at this scale. IBM is still developing a 45-nanometer chip for the system and may produce something with eight or 16 cores -- or more -- for it. Although the final chip configuration has yet to be determined, the system will have 1.6TB of memory and be housed in 96 "refrigerator-size" racks.
The cost of the system wasn't disclosed.
The supercomputer is also helping to drive a massive power upgrade at Lawrence Livermore, which is increasing the amount of electricity available for all its computing systems from 12.5 megawatts to 30 megawatts. To achieve the upgrade, it will run more power lines to its facility. Sequoia alone is expected to use about 6 megawatts, according to Seager.
The world's first computer to break the teraflop barrier was built at Sandia National Laboratories in 1996. A teraflop equals a trillion floating points a second; a petaflop is 1,000 trillion (one quadrillion) sustained floating-point operations per second.
It takes government funding to build systems of this scale and size, but that also means that the U.S. is paying for much of the problem-solving it takes to scale across more than a million cores. "This is what's so good about it," said Herb Schultz, manager of deep computing at IBM. "They [the national lab] end up proving that you can get codes to scale that high."
In effect, by solving those problems, the national lab's work will pave the way for broader adoption of massive systems that could improve weather research, forecasts, tornado tracking, and work on a variety of other research problems. Large systems such as Sequoia help researchers reduce uncertainty and improve precision in simulations that can, for instance, predict tornado paths. The more compute power available, the more fine tuned and accurate the simulation.
The major problem in running a system of this scale is "the applications -- porting the applications and scaling them up is a critical problem we are facing," said Seager.
There are two petaflop systems in the U.S., IBM's Roadrunner at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which passed the petaflop barrier last May, and Cray Inc.'s XT Jaguar at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
IBM plans to build Sequoia at its Rochester, Minn., plant.
Read more about High Performance Computing in Computerworld's High Performance Computing Topic Center.
This state transportation department uses computer science students from a local university as programming interns, and everyone is happy with the arrangement -- until one intern learns how to bring down the mainframe.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Changing the Way Government Works: Four Technology Trends that Drive Down Costs and Increase Productivity
- This paper discusses four technology-based approaches to improving processes and increasing
productivity while driving down department and agency costs.
- Path Selection Infographic
- Path Selection Infographic
- Hyperconvergence Infographic
- A wide range of observers agree that data centers are now entering an era of "hyperconvergence" that will raise network traffic levels faster...
- Preparing Your Infrastructure for the Hyperconvergence Era
- From cloud computing and virtualization to mobility and unified communications, an array of innovative technologies is transforming today's data centers.
- How WAN Optimization Helps Enterprises Reduce Costs
- If you wanted to break down innovation into a tidy equation, it might go something like this: Technology + Connectivity = Productivity. Productivity... All Government IT White Papers
- Cloud Knowledge Vault Learn how your organization can benefit from the scalability, flexibility, and performance that the cloud offers through the short videos and other resources...
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Mobile Security: Containerizing Enterprise Data In this on-demand webinar, Fixmo's Lee Cocking, VP of corporate strategy, explains why Apple-ization trends like mobility and "bring-your-own-device" (BYOD) are driving the...
- Endpoint Data Management: Protecting the Perimeter of the Internet of Things Not surprisingly, "Internet of Things" (IoT) and Big Data present new challenges AND opportunities for enterprise IT. Teams need to harness, secure and...
- All Government IT Webcasts