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Pittsburgh Picks Big Ben

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has chosen a Cray Inc. (Nasdaq: CRAY) supercomputer to replace an existing Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) processor-based cluster. The new Cray supports PSC's TeraGrid undertaking (see Big Ben Comes to Pittsburgh).

TeraGrid, which is backed by the National Science Foundation, is a project to harness the processing power of eight supercomputing sites across the U.S. for a range of research. These include PSC, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (see Supercomputers Boost Grid Computing and TACC Receives NSF Reward)

For the last few years, PSCs cluster, named LeMieux after Pittsburgh Penguins’ hockey legend Mario LeMieux, has been at the forefront of the center's TeraGrid work. But Jim Kasdorf, PSC’s director of special projects, told NDCF that the cluster, which was installed in 2001, is “getting a bit long in the tooth.” [Ed. note: not unlike its namesake.]

LeMieux (the cluster, not the hockey star) uses 3,000 HP Alpha processors spread across 178 cabinets and offers a peak performance of six teraflops (trillions of calculations per second). But the new supercomputer, which is named Big Ben after the much younger Pittsburgh Steelers

quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and some Benjamin Franklin guy, offers both higher performance and a smaller footprint.

Completed in February, Big Ben uses 2,090 Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) Opteron processors in just 22 cabinets, and has a peak performance of 10 teraflops. “It’s a much, much, smaller footprint, and purpose-designed for high-performance computing,” says Kasdorf.

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