IBM Unveils Supercomputer For Dept. Of Energy

August 25, 2000

NEWS BRIEFS

San Diego, CA — IBM unveiled the Department of Energy’s (DoE) newest “super computer” system, the RS/6000 SP, that will be used to perform modeling and simulation related to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, instead of underground detonations that would be in violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

“This level of computing power has never been achieved anywhere,” David Cooper, the associate director for computations and chief information officer at DoE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Calif., said in a statement. “It will open new horizons in scientific computing, as we approach our goal to simulate the aging and operation of a nuclear weapon. This is the second time in our partnership with IBM that they have exceeded contract performance specifications in the delivery of a major supercomputer system.”

The computer was developed by IBM for the DoE’s Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) which is run by Lawrence Livermore in California. As a result, the RS/6000 SP has been dubbed the ASCI White.

Jim Jardine, IBM’s program manager for ASCI White, told sister publication Defense Daily in a telephone interview that the system will provide the DoE with a full three dimensional simulation capability. This was not previously possible with the DoE’s older ASCI Blue Pacific computer, also built by IBM, that is currently being used for weapon’s testing simulations.

The DoE awarded IBM the development contract for ASCI White in 1998 and the total value after completion was $110 million.

David Nowak, the ASCI program leader at Lawrence Livermore, told sister publication Defense Daily that “the increased teraflop capability allows for higher resolution and more complex physics for nuclear stockpile testing.”

The simulations are used to examine how the U.S. nuclear weapon’s arsenal changes over time and what effect these changes have on their potency and reliability, Nowak said.

The system is made up of 8,192 microprocessors and is capable of performing 12.3 trillion calculations per second. It can store 16,000 times more information than the average desktop PC.

ASCI White weighs more than 106 tons and requires 9,920 square feet of floor space to operate. The supercomputer needs 1.2 megawatts of power to operate at full capacity.

IBM has completed the system’s performance testing at its Poughkepsie, N.Y., facility and has already moved 25 percent of the computer to the Lawrence Livermore Lab.

Jardine said that the remaining 75 percent of the computer will be delivered by flatbed truck in August. He said that the ASCI White system can also be used by the government for other uses such as weather simulation, air and space management, and to track airborne contaminants. ASCI White is scheduled to be fully operational at the DoE lab by the end of September.

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