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PNNL orders $24.5M supercomputer from Hewlett-Packard

April 16, 2002 Share This!

This news release has been updated since its original distribution date of April 16, 2002. Most significantly, the original computer ordered was annou

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HWP) today announced that PNNL has ordered a $24.5 million HP Linux-based supercomputer that will allow researchers to apply computational science to answer fundamental questions such as how radioactive waste can be processed and stored, and how proteins interact and behave in order to model a living cell. Once fully operational, the supercomputer should be the world's most powerful Linux-based supercomputer and one of the top supercomputers in the world.

Consisting of 1,438 next-generation Intel® ItaniumTM Family Processors that are code-named McKinley and Madison, the new HP supercomputer will have an expected total peak performance of more than 11.4 teraflops. Calculations that currently take a month to complete will be done in one day on the new system. The supercomputer will be roughly 11,400 times faster than a current personal computer.

"I'm pleased that the Department of Energy now will have the world's most powerful Linux-based computer for our pivotal work in biological and environmental research," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "This new computing power will advance scientific study in a host of areas and keep DOE and our national laboratories on the cutting edge of technology. But more than that, it will allow us to better fulfill our mission to the American people to provide the science needed to solve critical energy and national security problems."

Scientists will use the new HP supercomputer to study complex chemical problems that form the basis for new discoveries in areas such as biological systems, subsurface transport, material design, atmospheric chemistry and combustion. The supercomputer also will be vital to better understand systems biology, including structural biology, genomics and proteomics.

Scheduled to be fully operational in early 2003, the massively parallel computer is expected to be more than 36 times faster, have 50 times more disk space and hold 15 times as much memory as PNNL's current supercomputer, one of the world's most powerful when installed in 1997.

"Today's announcement shows how HP has worked to help accelerate the shift from proprietary platforms to open architectures, which provide increased scalability, speed and functionality at a lower cost," said Rich DeMillo, vice president and chief technology officer at HP. "This supercomputer is another validation of HP's service-centric technology vision, exemplifies the power and benefits inherent in the Itanium architecture and Linux, and clearly illustrates that there is more than one top player in the supercomputing market."

The new supercomputer is slated to be installed in the Molecular Sciences Computing Facility within the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE scientific user facility at PNNL. DOE's Office of Science sponsors EMSL through the Biological and Environmental Research program. Scientists will be granted access to the new computer based on a competitive proposal process. They will apply the supercomputer to study geochemistry and biochemistry, radioactive and chemical waste detection, storage and management, systems biology, genomics, proteomics, materials science, fundamental studies in chemistry and computer science, and catalysis.

"The new HP supercomputer will provide researchers from national laboratories, academia and industry with the capability to address very large and complex molecular-level computations associated with DOE's energy security mission and environmental cleanup programs," added DOE Office of Science Director Raymond Orbach.

For example, the new supercomputer will enable scientists to study a larger group of hydrocarbons, in particular complex hydrocarbons, that are vital to gaining a complete understanding of the reaction mechanisms involved in hydrocarbon fuel combustion. Providing data about these reactions currently unavailable through experiments should lead to development of more efficient catalysts and minimized carbon dioxide production.

"As we try to use computational results to replace difficult and expensive experiments, increased computational power is essential," according to Dave Dixon, EMSL associate director for theory, modeling and simulation. "The advanced architecture of the HP supercomputer provides the computational power that will permit us to attain close to peak performance on our key computational chemistry problems."

Delivery of the supercomputer is scheduled to begin with the arrival of HP McKinley-based nodes in mid-2002 and conclude in 2003 with a final shipment of HP Madison-based systems.

The supercomputer is based upon a Quadrics QSNet 2 interconnect that will provide a significantly reduced communication lag time between processors and will offer highly sustained performance-two factors crucial to computational chemistry research being done by PNNL. The supercomputer will have 3.8 terabytes of memory and 190 terabytes of disk space. One terabyte is equal to 1,024 gigabytes.

Tags: Energy, Fundamental Science, Computational Science, National Security, EMSL, Chemistry, Biology, Proteomics, Catalysis, Supercomputer

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 about $950 million. 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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