Argonne Labs plans half-petaflop BlueGene supercomputer

Researchers will pair two BlueGene/P systems to create 556 TFLOPS system

The Argonne National Laboratory in the US has put in an order for its second BlueGene/P supercomputing system from IBM.

The 445 teraflop machine, which should be up and running in 2009, eventually will be linked with a 111 teraflop BlueGene/P supercomputer now being installed at the lab, according to Ray Bair, director of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility in Argonne, Ill. Once both machines are operating and connected, researchers at the lab will have access to 556 teraflops of performance.

"We'll be seeing is a large jump in capability," said Bair. "Problems that have been waiting in the wings because we didn't have the computing power to handle them can now be addressed."

Argonne announced that it was buying its first BlueGene/P machine from IBM in May. It expects that testing of that system will be completed in the spring of 2008.

Pieces of the second BlueGene/P system will begin arriving at the lab later this year or in early 2008, according to Bair. The installation and testing period for that much bigger machine will last a good year, he added.

This past June, IBM's BlueGene/L machine took the top spot in the Top500 List of supercomputers for the fourth straight time. The BlueGene/L system, which IBM developed in conjunction with the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, is installed the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. That system hit a Linpack benchmark performance of 280.6 teraflops.

Bair said he expects researchers at the Argonne Labs to use the first BlueGene/P system and eventually the combined system to study the molecular basis of Parkinson's Disease, how water behaves in nanotubes, ways to make jet engines more efficient and what happens during a supernova explosion.

The newest machine, according to IBM's specs, is a 445 teraflop system, which means it can carry out 445 million million calculations per second. IBM also noted that if all six billion people on Earth were participating in a science computation, each person would need to do 70,000 additions or multiplications per second to keep up with the Blue Gene/P.

Bair declined to say how much will be paid for either BlueGene/P system.

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