Linux to enter supercomputing top five

A Linux cluster coming to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory this autumn will be the most powerful Linux or Intel-based supercomputer ever built

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), in California, is to build the world's largest and most powerful Linux supercomputer, for use with national security projects.

The supercomputing cluster will consist of 962 nodes running on 1,920 2.4GHz Intel Xeon processors, with a theoretical peak of 9.2 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second). Each node will have 4GB of DDR SDRAM memory and 120GB of hard disk space.

The cluster, to be completed by Linux Networx this autumn, will be the fastest Linux or Intel-based supercomputer, and one of the world's five fastest supercomputers.

The Evolocity cluster -- as it will be known -- will give Linux a significant boost up the charts of supercomputing prowess, if the claims are true. In last month's Top500 ranking of supercomputers, the fastest Linux cluster ranked at only 35 -- a 512-node "Beowulf" cluster at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. It would also be a significant demonstration of the use of commonly available technology, such as the mass-market Intel hardware and freely available Linux software, in high-performance computing. Many supercomputers use proprietary hardware and operating systems such as Unix.

Linux is popular with scientists, because it is cheap and stable, and its licence allows them to freely modify the software code.

"This Intel-based Linux Networx system is historic in that it represents a viable method of using standards-based technologies to create some of the fastest supercomputers in the world," said Lisa Hambrick, director of enterprise processor marketing for Intel, in a statement.

The fastest supercomputer is currently NEC's Earth Simulator, which churns out 35.9 trillion calculations per second, more than the next 12 systems combined, according to Top500.

Linux Networx said that the cluster will be seven times more powerful than Deep Blue, the machine used to beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It will have the same amount of processing power as 9,200 average desktop PCs, the company said.

The company, whose customers include the US National Security Agency, Sandi National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, is using custom software for the nodes' BIOS and for cluster management.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a US Department of Energy lab operated by the University of California. It was founded in 1952 for designing nuclear weapons, and continues to focus on national security matters, as well as other issues such as energy, biomedicine and the environment.

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