US lab soups up supercomputer

The US Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) has claimed that its 2,000-processor Intel Itanium 2...

The US Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) has claimed that its 2,000-processor Intel Itanium 2 supercomputer is now the world's fastest Linux supercomputer following an upgrade.

Previously Lawrence Livermore National Lab's Intel Xeon-based Multiprogrammatic Capability Cluster laid claim to the accolade.

PNNL's system's peak performance has been boosted from 6.2 trillion floating point operations per second (Tflops) to 11.8Tflops. The new processors run at 1.5GHz and are based on Madison, Intel's follow-up to its McKinley design.

"It's about 11,800 times faster than the average personal computer," said PNNL Molecular Science Computing Facility's manager of computer operations, Scott Studham. "Most computers have between 250MBytes and 1GByte of memory. This one has 7,000GBytes of memory."

PNNL's upgrade process took just over a month, with a team of 10 Hewlett-Packard employees on site unpacking and installing about 250 Madison microprocessors into the Labs' McKinley-based rx2600 machines each week.

The 3,000-square-foot, $24.5m system will be used for a variety of computationally intensive tasks at the labs, such as studying basic chemistry and biology, and modelling how leaked radioactive material might move underground.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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