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Jehanzeb 02-03-2009 04:56 AM

IBM's Sequoia: 20x faster than the world's fastest supercomputer

SAN JOSE, Calif. The U.S. government has agreed to buy two supercomputers from IBM Corp., including one to be in use in 2012 that will ultimately scale to 20 petaflops, an estimated ten times the performance of today's most powerful system.

Terms of the deal were not immediately released. In June IBM became the first to break the petaflops performance mark with a separate government system. Cray quickly followed with a petaflops system that hit the Top 500 list in November.

The new IBM BlueGene-class systems will be installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to handle analysis of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The lab currently uses an IBM BlueGene/L system.

Under the deal IBM will deliver to the lab by April one of its BlueGene/P systems capable of up to 500 teraflops. By sometime in 2012, IBM will have installed a follow on system called Sequoia.

BlueGene/P uses a modified PowerPC 450 processor running at 850 MHz with four cores per chip and as many as 4,096 processors in a rack. The Sequoia system will use 45nm processors with as many as 16 cores per chip running at a significantly faster data rate.

Both BlueGene/P and Sequoia consist of clusters built up from 96 racks of systems. Sequoia will have 1.6 petabytes of memory feeding its 1.6 million cores, but many details of its design have not yet been disclosed.
"The Sequoia system will be 15 times faster than BlueGene/P with roughly the same footprint and a modest increase in power consumption," said Herb Schultz, manager in IBM's deep computing group.

The IBM bid was one of four for the contract put out by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) under the U.S. Department of Energy.

"IBM's BlueGene proposal exceeded our requirements while consuming less than half the power of its closest competitor and less than a third of the most power hungry," said Mark Seager, a principal investigator for supercomputers at Lawrence Livermore. "That is a savings of more than 35 megawatts for the lifetime of the machine and translates to a savings of $24.5 million and 108 kilotons less carbon dioxide expended," he said in an email exchange.

"These powerful machines will provide NNSA with the capabilities needed to resolve time-urgent and complex scientific problems, ensuring the viability of the nation's nuclear deterrent into the future," said NNSA administrator Thomas D'Agostino in a press statement. "This endeavor will also help maintain U.S. leadership in high performance computing and promote scientific discovery," he added.

Separately, IBM and Cray are developing systems for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency expected to deliver a new level of productivity, in part due to new hardware and software designs. Systems designed under the HPCS project could become available in late 2010.

"Livermore has such an enormous investment in applications geared for BlueGene that they didn't want to bring in a whole new architecture," said IBM's Schultz. "These guys really know how to program a BlueGene system," he said, adding that IBM has sold dozens of the BlueGene/P systems worldwide to date.

Source: - U.S. taps IBM for 20 petaflops computer


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