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ORNL supercomputer rises to No. 2 worldwide - Leadership computing system promises to accelerate scientific discovery
The Cray XT4 "Jaguar" resides at the Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL. (hi-res image)
The new Top500 List was released Wednesday, June 27, at the 2007 International Supercomputing Conference being held in Dresden, Germany.
The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Oak Ridge system is the world's most powerful supercomputer dedicated to open science. The Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL is committed to delivering the nation's most capable computational system for open science and applying it to a set of compelling scientific and engineering problems of national importance. The system is at the center of a large and vibrant portfolio of research, technology transfer, and education and outreach activities. The majority (80%) of LCF resources at ORNL is available to the open science community through DOE's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program.
"By fielding the most powerful open computer system, ORNL and the DOE Office of Science demonstrate dedication to solving the world's most challenging scientific and engineering problems, from a deeper understanding of climate change to the creation of new materials to the ability to harness electricity from fission and fusion energy," said Thomas Zacharia, associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences. "We are very excited about the contributions we have been able to make to scientific discovery, and we fully expect these contributions to accelerate in the coming months and years."
"University, laboratory, and industrial researchers using a broad array of disciplinary perspectives are making use of the leadership computing resources to generate remarkable consequences for American competitiveness," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, undersecretary for the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy. "The latest acquisition, which places the facility second on the Top 500 list, and our plan to deliver 1 petaflop next year, demonstrates the department's continued commitment to leadership computing and the contribution it makes to scientific and economic opportunities.
"For example," Orbach said, "a team led by Jihui Yang of General Motors is using the ORNL leadership computing facility to perform first-principles calculations of thermoelectric materials capable of turning waste heat into electricity. The team's goal is to help automakers capture that 60 percent of the energy generated by an automobile's engine that is currently lost through waste heat and to use it to boost fuel economy. These calculations would not have been possible if the scientists had not had access to the leadership computing resources of the Energy Department. This is a great example of how computational simulation can contribute to scientific advances and energy security."
Scientists are using the system to advance the knowledge in a wide variety of research fields. For example, a team of climate scientists are performing simulations that are improving our understanding of carbon dioxide's role in global warming. "[On Jaguar,] we got 100-year runs in three days. The simulation of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation is the most impressive new result in ten years. This was a significant upgrade of how we do science with this model. 40 years per day was beyond our dreams," said Peter Gent of NCAR, Chairman of CCSM Scientific Steering Committee. He went on to say that scientists are now in position to test the full carbon-nitrogen cycle.
Fusion researchers use Jaguar to simulate the multinational ITER fusion reactor, a device that will bring the world closer to a clean, abundant energy source by heating an ionized gas ten times hotter than the sun. In fact, one fusion application - called AORSA—has achieved 87.5 trillion calculations per second (87.5 teraflops) on Jaguar, which is 74 percent of the system's theoretical peak.
Other fields are seeing comparable achievements. Scientists are utilizing Jaguar to provide a fundamental understanding of combustion, helping make the most of current energy sources with cleaner, more efficient engines and power generators. Biologists are simulating enzymes, leading the way to products ranging from more effective biofuels to new drugs for preventing transplant rejection. Climate scientists are refining their understanding of climate change and delving into the behavior of the earth's oceans. Astrophysicists are using the system to explain the deaths of stars, the nature of dark matter, and the gravitational waves created by merging black holes.
The largest problem ever for the High-Performance Linpack benchmark—used to evaluate systems on the Top500 List—was solved on Jaguar. This achievement points to Jaguar's superior balance between processor speed and system memory. As a result, the system was able to solve a matrix problem of order 2.2 million containing nearly 5 trillion elements.
"It is the largest problem that I know of that's ever been done," said Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and ORNL, co-creator of the list.
Jaguar comprises 124 cabinets containing more than 11,700 dual-core AMD processors. The system achieved 101.7 teraflops on the Linpack benchmark, which is more than 85 percent of its theoretical peak of 119 teraflops.
Jaguar has at least one more upgrade in its future, with quad-core processors replacing the system's dual-core processors in late 2007. That upgrade will once again more than double Jaguar's performance—to a peak of 250 teraflops. By late 2008, a new one petaflops Cray 'Baker' system will be installed. Both machines will employ the upcoming quad-core AMD Opteron processors.
The Top500 List, compiled by Dongarra, Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany, and Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has been maintained since 1993. The entire list can be viewed at www.top500.org.