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New Linux supercomputer comes to California

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California, USA, will soon be getting a heavyweight new Linux supercomputer that will be one of the most powerful Linux-based supercomputers on Earth.

The machine will theoretically be capable of 9.2 trillion floating-point operations per second (Tflops) and will be used to help the Livermore laboratory as it conducts ever-more complex scientific experiments involving climate, earthquakes and other physical phenomena.

The computer is being built by Linux NetworX and is expected to be delivered to Livermore by the first week of September, Mark Seager, an assistant department head at the laboratory, said. The lab is a US Department of Energy facility operated by the University of California where experiments are conducted in global climate modelling, material properties, earthquakes and other large-scale, high-performance simulations of physical phenomena. It was founded in 1952 as a nuclear weapons design lab and continues to conduct scientific research in the interests of national security.

Seager said the new machine, which will run Red Hat Linux 7.3, will replace an existing 1.8Tflops Linux supercomputer. The supercomputer is being built in 10 96-node scalable units that will be put together to create a 960-node machine containing a total of 1,920 Intel Xeon 2.4-GHz processors. A total of 3.84Tbytes of RAM will be built into the machine, along with 115Tbytes of total hard-disk capacity. Another 110Tbytes of global disk capacity will be available outside the supercomputer.

The machine will be used for unclassified research at the lab at a cost of $10m to $15m, Seager said.

Clark Roundy, vice-president of marketing at Linux NetworX, said the lab's supercomputer is being built from the company's Evolocity cluster platforms, which features sub-1U sizes for higher hardware densities. (One U equals 1.75 in.) The Evolocity hardware also features upgraded heat dissipation and a special Linux BIOS that incorporates the BIOS into the Linux kernel, allowing faster boot-up times and increased system manageability, Roundy said.

The new system will be one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet, according to the Top 500 Supercomputers Web site maintained by the University of Tennessee and the University of Mannheim in Germany. The number one supercomputer in the world is the Earth Simulator at the Earth Simulator Center in Japan, according to Top500.org. That machine, built by NEC, has a theoretical peak of 35.86Tflops. The number two machine on the list is the ASCI White IBM-built supercomputer at Livermore, which is rated at 7.22T flops.

The new LinuxNetworX machine is expected to replace the IBM machine in the number two slot once it is fully operational.
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