NASA's new supercomputer aims for 10 PFLOPS by 2012

SGI, Intel team up on supercomputer that will help design rocket to take astronauts to Mars

SGI and Intel Corp. are teaming up to build a supercomputer for NASA that they expect will pass the PFLOPS barrier next year and hit 10 PFLOPS by 2012. A petaflop is a quadrillion floating-point operations per second.

Techs from SGI, a maker of high-performance computers, will begin installing the new supercomputer on May 21 and are slated to have it fully assembled in July. The machine, running quad-core Intel Xeon processors with a total of 20,480 cores, should initially hit 245 TFLOPS.

The machine will be installed at NASA's Advanced Supercomputing facility at the Ames Research Center at the Moffett Federal Airfield in California.

Bill Thigpen, engineering branch chief at NASA, said they need the extra computing power to get astronauts back into space on an entirely new rocket.

"We're designing our next-generation rocket for getting to the moon and then eventually to Mars," said Bill Thigpen, engineering branch chief at NASA. "They're retiring the shuttle and the president has said he wants us to go to the moon. There's a lot to work on."

Aside from designing a new rocket, Thigpen said they plan to use the new supercomputer to model the ocean, study global warming, and build the next-generation engine and aircraft. "It's really important to look at what decisions government can make to make things better in the future," he added.

Thigpen declined to say what NASA is paying for the supercomputer or for the upgrades that will be needed to get it to 10 PFLOPS.

According to SGI, the system will have more than 20,800GB of memory, which is equal to the memory in average 10,000 desktop PCs. Also, NASA will be deploying a next-generation SGI InfiniteStorage InfiniBand disk solution, which is designed to store and manage 450 terabytes of data, an amount five times bigger than the entire print collection of the Library of Congress.

The supercomputer will be made up of 40 racks, each equipped with 512 processor cores and 512GB of memory.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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