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.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
If you use ‘password,’ one the worst passwords, as your password, fail to keep antivirus protection updated and don’t bother to deploy security patches to close critical vulnerabilities, then maybe you should consider working for the cybersecurity-clueless federal government; you’d fit right in, according to Senator Tom Coburn's cybersecurity and critical infrastructure report.
- 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.
- Pay-as-you-Grow Data Protection: IBM Tivoli's Full-featured Data Protection Suite for Small to Medium Businesses
- IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to start out with only the individual solutions...
- Streamline Data Protection with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center
- IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) has been an industry-standard data protection solution for two decades. But, where most competitors focus exclusively on Backup...
- Simplify and Consolidate Data Protection for Better Business Results
- Learn about IBM® Tivoli® Storage Manager Operations Center, which provides advanced visualization, built-in analytics and integrated workflow automation features that leapfrog traditional backup...
- HP HAVEn: See the big picture in Big Data
- HP HAVEn is the industry's first comprehensive, scalable, open, and secure platform for Big Data. Enterprises are drowning in a sea of data... All Government IT White Papers
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,...
- Getting Ready for BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.2 Find out how BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 helps organizations address the full spectrum of EMM challenges, while balancing the needs of both the...
- Containerization Options: How to Choose the Best DLP Solution for Your Organization This webcast outlines a framework for making the right choice when it comes to containerization approaches, along with the pros and cons of...
- Mobile Apps and Devices Slash Customer Cycle Time Consolidated Engineering Laboratories' field employees used to collect data on triplicate forms that were sometimes hard to read and difficult to manage. After...
- All Government IT Webcasts