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IBM's 20 petaflops supercomputer to keep tabs on US nukes

From Big Blue to big boom
Tue Feb 03 2009, 10:49

IBM HAS TEAMED up with the US government to try and build the most powerful, most super supercomputer ever.

Boringly dubbed "Sequioa", the aim is to get the system, which will be housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in a series of 96 racks, to log performance speeds of up to 20 petaflops.


Boasting over 1.6 million processors and some 1.6TB of memory, the Sequoia system will initially be used to keep track of the US' mountain of aging nukes and simulating nuclear explosions, er, tests to determine whether the weapons are stable and safe (irony?!) for use. The number of cores the supercomputer will have is, as of yet, a closely guarded secret.
Sequioa should be up and running by early 2012, but in the meanwhile, IBM is already getting stuck in on its plans to begin deployment of Dawn, a 500-teraflop system which will eventually serve as the delivery system for Sequoia operations. Both systems will be constructed at IBM's BlueGene facilities in Minnesota.

When unleashed, Sequoia is expected to decimate the performance record of IBM's current supercomputer heavyweight champion, the RoadRunner system, which runs at 1.105 petaflops. Only one other supercomputer has managed to break through the petaflops barrier and give IBM a run for its money, Cray's XT5 Jaguar, which sits at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and runs at 1.059 petaflops.


IBM reckons its 20-petaflops capable Sequoia system will outshine every single current system in the Top500 supercomputer rankings combined in terms of raw computing power.

Besides managing stockpiles of rusty old nukes, Sequoia will also be used for research into astronomy, energy, the human genome and climate change, according to IBM. The system will also act as a giant weather cock, allowing forecasters to predict local weather "events" less than one kilometer across, compared with 10 kilometers today and at speeds up to 40 times faster than current systems.

The price of the system is still unknown, but we don't think the US treasury will be paying for it in petty cash. µ


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