TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: US Supercomputer Doubles its Speed

US Supercomputer Doubles its Speed

Duncan Mansfield, AP (
Fri, 25 Aug 2006 12:56:19 -0500

By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press Writer

The most powerful supercomputer available for general scientific
research in the United States has doubled its speed, officials said

The 54-cabinet Cray XT3 supercomputer at Tennessee's Oak Ridge
National Laboratory has been upgraded from 25 teraflops to 54
teraflops, or 54 trillion mathematical calculations per second, they

"It is probably the fifth-fastest machine" in the world, said Thomas
Zacharia, associate laboratory director. "It is clearly the fastest
open science machine in the U.S. today."

The supercomputer, dubbed "Jaguar," was ranked 13th fastest before the
upgrade. A list of the 500 most powerful computers in the world is
compiled by scientists at the University of Mannheim in Germany,
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee.

"The list is a very simple measure, and it is a good thing, obviously,"
Zacharia said. "But the real winner in these things are the scientists
who are running these machines.

"(They) have been very pleased at the initial performance of this
upgraded machine," he said. "It is a terrific scientific instrument."

The overhaul was the first step in a multiyear, nearly $200 million
contract between Seattle-based Cray Inc. and the U.S. Department of
Energy to increase Oak Ridge's supercomputing capability to 1,000
trillion calculations per second, or one petaflop, by 2009.

The current world leader is the nearly six-times-faster 280.6 teraflop
IBM Blue Gene/L deployed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
in California and used for national defense purposes.

The Department of Energy has committed to make Oak Ridge's Jaguar
available for unclassified peer-reviewed research at least 80 percent
of the time.

DreamWorks Animation is interested in using the machine to develop new
algorithms for duplicating the effects of light and shade called "ray
tracing" in 3-D animation, Zacharia said. The results could show up in
the company's animated feature films or in medical and occupational

Boeing Co. is hoping the supercomputer will lead to lighter, more
energy-efficient airplanes, and General Atomics Co. wants to do fusion
energy research, duplicating the power of the sun to light homes.

Another 68 cabinets will be added around November to double the
supercomputer's speed again to around 100 teraflops. A year later, the
installation of new processors should push capacity to 250 teraflops.
The lab is expected to swap out Jaguar for the next-generation Cray
supercomputer, currently code-named "Baker," in late 2008. At 1,000
teraflops, Baker would be roughly three times faster than any existing
computer in the world.

On the Net:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory:
Cray Inc.:

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I had thought the computer at
University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana was the fastest anywhere.
Did this change? PAT]

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