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  technology > hardware > computing
june 29, 2000 |
asci white 12.3 teraflops supercomputer

IBM today announced that the company has built the world's fastest supercomputer, more than three times faster than the most powerful computer in existence today.

ASCI White marks a breakthrough in computing. At 12.3 teraflops (trillions of operations/second), the IBM-designed RS/6000 SP system is the first computer to exceed the double-digit teraflop speed barrier.

The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) project calls for a series of supercomputers--1, 3, 10, 30 and 100 teraflops in size--to be built over a period of several years. ASCI White is the third step in the DOE's five stage ASCI plan to achieve a 100 TeraOPS supercomputer system by 2004. It is part of the DOE's science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain the safety and reliability of the US nuclear stockpile without underground testing. Supercomputers allow scientists to predict how volatile materials in the warheads behave as they age and change. ASCI White is hooked to a bank of imaging workstations that convert data from a simulation into a visualization of the detonation, which is projected onto a giant screen.

The supercomputer will also be used for non-weapons research. Twice a year, it will be turned over to university researchers for three or four days for work on astrophysics, materials science and drug discovery. ASCI White replaced predecessor ASCI Blue Pacific (which runs at 3.8 teraflops) after only 21 months, that will now become a resource for university researchers.

*ASCI White* comprises 512 Symmetric Multi-processor (SMP) machines, each runs sixteen processors in parallel, for a total of 8,192 processing units (copper microprocessors), and connected by 2,000 miles of copper wiring. IBM's AIX --a version of UNIX-- runs the machine, which takes over two hours to boot. Contains six trillion bytes (TB) of memory with more than 160 TB of IBM disk storage capacity--enough to hold six times the entire book collection of the Library of Congress. Dozens of system administrators monitor the machine, which can run up to 100 hours without crashing. Each machine is about the size of an air conditioner.

They are stacked on top of each other in refrigerator-sized racks, which, arranged row after row, covers an area the size of two basketball courts. Delivery of the ASCI White system from IBM facilities in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. to DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California will require 28 tractor trailer trucks. The machine cost the Energy Department over US $110 million.
IBM Builds World's Fastest Supercomputer to Simulate Nuclear Testing for U.S. Energy Department
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