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Oak Ridge Plans Petaflop Supercomputer

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb, will launch a petaflop-sized supercomputer by the end of the decade to cope with spiraling demands for computing power at the high-profile research site.

Speaking at the High Performance Computing User Forum at Oak Ridge today, Thomas Zacharia, the lab’s associate director, said the site’s current systems, which have a capacity of around 43 teraflops, are being stretched to the limit. The scientist told NDCF that that the lab is “constrained” by the size of these machines, particularly when it comes to the atom simulations needed to support its energy research.

A petaflop is equal to a thousand trillion operations per second. This is three orders of magnitude more powerful than a teraflop, which is a trillion operations per second.

The new, as yet unnamed, supercomputer will blow the doors off other high-performance systems. The top supercomputer in the world is currently a 136.8-teraflop IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) Blue Gene/L system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (See IBM Dominates Supercomputing and Invasion of the Coneheads.)

Zacharia adds that Oak Ridge’s technology needs are growing right across its research, from climate change through to astrophysics. “Every time we solve a bottleneck, another bottleneck comes up,” he says. “Our scientists need more resources.”

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