Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


ORNL research gets boost with new teraop computer

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., April 13, 1999 — Computing capabilities at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are taking a giant leap forward with the acquisition of an IBM RS/6000 SP supercomputer.

"For ORNL to support DOE's mission, our researchers are developing scientific simulations that require machine performance at levels of a teraop (1 trillion calculations per second) and beyond," said Thomas Zacharia, director of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division. "By acquiring this IBM machine, we're taking a major step toward that goal."

The initial IBM system is configured to perform 100 gigaops, or a tenth of a teraop; however, it will be upgraded to 400 gigaops within about six months. By about the middle of next year, Zacharia expects the unit to be upgraded to a 1 teraop capability.

The new machine will be more than seven times faster than the ORNL's Intel Paragon XP/S 150, which in 1995 was the fastest computer in the world. It will support computational simulations across a broad range of DOE programs.

"The really exciting thing about this machine isn't just the speed of its calculations, but rather the speed of the researchers rushing to use it," said Ed Cumesty, DOE Oak Ridge Operations assistant manager for laboratories.

This acquisition will further enhance ORNL partnerships with industry, universities and other labs as they strive to meet challenges of today and tomorrow.

"It is vital for our nation to reduce vehicle fuel use requirements, as well as greenhouse gases and criteria pollutant emissions," said Dan Reicher, DOE assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "The addition of a teraop machine to DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network will significantly advance the engineering simulation activities begun by the Partnership for New Generation Vehicles and other initiatives in our quest to develop advanced transportation vehicles and alternative fuel technologies."

The teraop machine will also support the development of more comprehensive climate models that involve atmosphere and ocean interactions to facilitate research exploring the uncertainties of climate change. This will permit researchers to develop a better understanding of possible climates and climate variability on 10- to 100-year time scales.

Researchers also need a significantly expanded computational infrastructure to exploit the rapid increase of data being produced by the DNA sequencing of human and microbial genomes. The high-performance biocomputing tools being produced by the Genome Annotation Consortium, led by ORNL, address a need for large-scale genome analysis. Results from these analyses will be vital resources to the genome sequencing at the DOE Joint Genome Institute and to the biological community as a whole.

Over the next few months, computer scientists from ORNL and IBM will be developing new programming tools and techniques to support this highly sophisticated machine. They will also work together to improve data storage and digital library systems with parallel programming environments and Web-based interfaces.

With the acquisition of the IBM RS/6000 SP, ORNL enters the next millennium as one of the top computing powers in the world.

"The latest generation of supercomputers are essential to make progress in solving some of the most challenging scientific and engineering problems," said Al Trivelpiece, director of ORNL. "I am pleased that this new supercomputer will allow ORNL scientists and engineers to remain at the forefront in many areas of important research."

Funding was provided by DOE. ORNL is a DOE multiprogram research facility managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation.