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2/3/2009
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IBM Tapped For 20-Petaflop Government Supercomputer

IBM also will build a 500-teraflop computer called Dawn, which will provide the application foundation for computing on Sequoia.


IBM BlueGene/P Supercomputer

IBM BlueGene/P Supercomputer
(click for larger image)

IBM on Tuesday said the U.S. government has hired it to build a supercomputer 20 times more powerful than the world's fastest computer today.

Called Sequoia, the massive system is expected to deliver 20 petaflops of computing power to the National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Department of Energy. Sequoia will be used to simulate testing of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

IBM also will build a 500-teraflop computer called Dawn, which will provide the application foundation for computing on Sequoia.

A petaflop stands for a quadrillion floating-point operations per second, and a teraflop is a trillion calculations a second. To put Sequoia's computing power in perspective, what it can do in one hour would take all 6.7 billion people on Earth with hand calculators 320 years, if they worked together on the calculation for 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, according to IBM.

For example, Sequoia would provide 40 times more power than today's technology for monitoring and forecasting weather and a 50x improvement in scientists' ability to predict earthquakes and map out evacuation routes.

Sequoia will be built at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and also will be used by the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs. The system will comprise 96 refrigerator-size racks with a combined 1.6 PB of memory, 98,304 compute notes, and 1.6 million IBM Power processor cores. The system, which will cover 3,422 square feet, will be built on IBM's future BlueGene supercomputer hardware and software technology.

"The longstanding partnership of NNSA, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and IBM is ushering in an era of multipetaflop/s computing," NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said in a statement.

Indeed, IBM's Roadrunner was one of only two supercomputers to break the 1-petaflop barrier to hold on to its ranking as the world's fastest computer in the latest Top500 list released in November. Roadrunner reached a speed of 1.105 petaflops, while Cray's Jaguar reached 1.059 petaflops to take the second-place slot.

Sequoia is expected to be more powerful than the combined performance of all the systems on the Top500 list, according to IBM.

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