IBM plans 20 petaflop supercomputer

Company says new system will smash the old performance records within two years
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

IBM said on Tuesday it is developing a supercomputer to outperform its record-breaking Roadrunner machine and go straight to 20 petaflops when it is launched next year.

One petaflop is 1,000 trillion floating-point operations per second.

The new supercomputer, called Sequoia, will be housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Like Roadrunner — the first system through the one-petaflop barrier — the new machine is being developed for the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) "to help continue to ensure the safety and reliability of the nation's ageing nuclear deterrent", IBM said in a statement.

IBM is delivering two systems of which the 20-petaflop Sequoia is the bigger. Delivery for Sequoia, which is "based on future BlueGene technology", is scheduled to start in 2011 with deployment in 2012, the company said. Meanwhile, Dawn, a 500-teraflop computer, is scheduled for delivery later this year and, according to IBM, will "lay the applications foundation for multi-petaflops computing with Sequoia".

With 1.6 petabytes of memory, 96 racks, 98,304 nodes and 1.6 million cores, Sequoia will be one of the largest and most complex computers ever built.

IBM said Sequoia will be focused on predictive simulation through running "very large suites of complex simulations called uncertainty quantification studies". It will also be used for weapons science calculations. These calculations will be necessary, IBM says, for the NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship programme, which is designed to help ensure the "safety, security and reliability" of the US government's nuclear weapons arsenal.

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