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TMCNet:  ORNL once again has world's fastest supercomputer; Titan tops list

[November 13, 2012]

ORNL once again has world's fastest supercomputer; Titan tops list

OAK RIDGE, Nov 13, 2012 (The Knoxville News-Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- After a two-year pause, Oak Ridge National Laboratory once again has the world's fastest supercomputer.

Titan, a Cray XK7 system, debuted Monday as No. 1 on the latest rendition of the Top500 list, after tests proved the machine was capable of a sustained performance of 17.5 petaflops -- or 17.5 million billion mathematical calculations per second. The supercomputer reportedly has a peak capability of 27 petaflops.

Jeff Nichols, the lab's scientific computing chief, said there's even more to come from Titan. He confirmed that Titan performed the benchmark tests for the rankings with some parts of the system not yet fully operable.

"So, we have room for future performance increases," Nichols said by email from Salt Lake City, Utah, where he's attending the Supercomputing Conference this week.

The latest computer rankings were released Monday in conjunction with the conference's opening.

"It's terrific," ORNL Director Thom Mason said Monday as the lab hosted the news media for a tour and briefing about Titan and performance computing.

The new $100 million supercomputer is a reconfigured version of Jaguar, a predecessor machine that also held the top spot at one time (2009-2010). Titan has a hybrid architecture and power to burn. Indeed, studies of combustion will be one of the featured challenges that researchers will tackle with this unprecedented computing power.

This is at least the fourth time in history that ORNL has had the world's fastest computer on its campus. Besides Titan and Jaguar, the others were the Intel Paragon (1995) and ORACLE (1953).

Oak Ridge officials embraced and celebrated the milestone, but they emphasized that the real excitement will come when Titan is turned loose on scientific problem-solving. The lab said Titan will be used for research on energy sources, climate change, efficient engines and development of new materials.

The Cray supercomputer uses NVIDIA's next-generation graphical processing units -- a technology originally developed for computer games -- to greatly bolster the computing capability.

Mason said it's much more than just a computer set up to achieve speed records.

"Titan, as it's configured now, is really designed for doing science," he said.

Mason said the lab expects Titan to follow in the tradition of Jaguar and be a super-productive machine for modeling and simulations needed for scientific discovery.

In the latest world rankings, Titan supplanted Sequoia -- an IBM Blue Gene/Q system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Sequoia is now the second-fastest supercomputer with a sustained capability of 16.3 petaflops, followed by the K computer, a Fujitsu system in Japan; Mira, an IBM system at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois; and JUQUEEN, an upgraded IBM system in Germany that's now the fastest machine in Europe.

Another U.S. machine to emerge on the Top500 list was Stampede, a Dell supercomputer at the University of Texas. It was ranked No. 7.

___ (c)2012 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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