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PNNL supercomputer 5th fastest in the world

November 17, 2003 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's supercomputer has been ranked No. 5 on the top 500 list of the fastest computers in the world that was released yesterday. The HP system installed at PNNL was designed specifically for complex computational environmental and biological sciences.

The latest list represents the first time the 11.8 teraflop supercomputer was ranked based on its full power. The machine consists of nearly 2,000 1.5GHz Intel® Itanium®-2 processors. The Top 500 list ranks computers based on their performance running a benchmark called Linpack, which is a method to measure a machine's ability to solve a set of dense linear equations.

"The unique architecture and balance of our supercomputer enables us to address larger science issues as well as support more users of the machine," said Scott Studham, manager of High-Performance Computing Systems at PNNL. "Our focus has been on delivering the lowest time-to-solution for the type of science we conduct. The unique characteristics of our system enable it to attain the fastest time-to-solution of any system we have benchmarked for our complex science."

PNNL's second supercomputer - the world's first 128-way Linux box from SGI - ranked No. 223 on the list. The SGI box features 128 Itanium2 processors running on the Linux operating system. It went online in September 2003. The principle function of this Altix 3000 system will be PNNL's on-going research mission. PNNL scientists will employ the system in studies related to the laboratory's missions in fundamental sciences, environmental quality, energy resources and national security.

The HP supercomputer, ordered in April 2002, is installed in the Molecular Science Computing Facility of the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE scientific user facility located at PNNL. Large blocks of computing time are granted to multi-institutional research teams on a competitive proposal basis.

Users of the PNNL supercomputer come from more than 40 universities and eight government research facilities, such as the University of Houston, Emory University, Columbia University, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. They are tackling scientific topics such as chemical transformations for catalyst design, the physics and chemistry of biochips, the synthesis and reactivity of nanomaterials, the dynamics of damaged DNA and a new approach to atmospheric global climate models.

From the beginning of its supercomputer procurement process, PNNL sought a high-performance system tailored to the requirements of large-scale computational, biological and chemical sciences. Those requirements included large memory storage, fast connections between processors and high-efficiency processors.

The result is a supercomputer that features an unprecedented one-half a petabyte of disk space, the first-ever deployment of a Quadrics QSNet 2 interconnect that enables processors to communicate in less than three microseconds and Intel's 1.5GHz Itanium2 processors with superior speed.

"As a result, we've heightened our capability to provide scientific solutions and increased our capacity to accommodate more research teams," Studham said. "The architecture allows us to address some of the country's most important scientific questions in much less time. To us, the speed in which we can provide a solution is more important than the system's peak performance."

In June 2003, only a portion of the full PNNL system was operational and, based on its performance, it was ranked No. 8 on the list.

The Molecular Science Computing Facility is soliciting proposals for allocations of computer time for computational grand challenge projects that address the environmental problems and research needs facing DOE and the nation. Proposals to use the supercomputer can be submitted through a process outlined at http://www.emsl.pnl.gov/using-emsl/. Business inquiries on PNNL research and technologies should be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or e-mail: inquiry@pnl.gov.

Tags: Energy, Fundamental Science, Computational Science, National Security, EMSL, Operations, Chemistry, Supercomputer, Facilities

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of more than $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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