An artist rendering illustrates how the Hewlett-Packard supercomputer would be set up within the Molecular Sciences Computing Facility at the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science will acquire a $24.5 million HP Linux-based supercomputer that, when
fully operational, will be the world's most powerful Linux-based supercomputer and one of the top supercomputers in
April 22, 2002—The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and
Hewlett-Packard Company announced that PNNL has ordered a HP Linux-based supercomputer
that will allow researchers to apply computational science to answer fundamental questions such as
how radioactive waste can be processed and stored, and how proteins interact and behave in order
to model a living cell.
Consisting of 1,400 next-generation Intel® ItaniumIM Family Processors that are code-named
McKinley and Madison, the new HP supercomputer will have an expected total peak performance
of more than 8.3 teraflops. Calculations that currently take a month to complete will be done in one
day on the new system. The supercomputer will be roughly 8,300 times faster than a current
"I'm pleased that the Department of Energy now will have the world's most powerful Linux-based
computer for our pivotal work in biological and environmental research," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "This new
computing power will advance scientific study in a host of areas and keep DOE and our national laboratories on the cutting edge
of technology. But more than that, it will allow us to better fulfill our mission to the American people to provide the science
needed to solve critical energy and national security problems."
Scientists will use the new HP supercomputer to study complex chemical problems that form the basis for new discoveries in
areas such as biological systems, subsurface transport, material design, atmospheric chemistry and combustion. The
supercomputer also will be vital to better understand systems biology, including structural biology, genomics and proteomics.
Scheduled to be fully operational in 2003, the massively parallel computer is expected to be more than 30 times faster, have 50
times more disk space and hold 10 times as much memory as PNNL's current supercomputer, one of the world's most powerful
when installed in 1997.
"Today's announcement shows how HP has worked to help accelerate the shift from proprietary platforms to open architectures,
which provide increased scalability, speed and functionality at a lower cost," said Rich DeMillo, vice president and chief
technology officer at HP. "This supercomputer is another validation of HP's service-centric technology vision, exemplifies the
power and benefits inherent in the Itanium architecture and Linux, and clearly illustrates that there is more than one top player in
the supercomputing market."
The new supercomputer is slated to be installed in the
Molecular Sciences Computing Facility within the
William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences
Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE scientific user facility at
PNNL. DOE's Office of Science sponsors EMSL
through the Biological and Environmental Research
program. Scientists will be granted access to the new
computer based on a competitive proposal process.
They will apply the supercomputer to study
geochemistry and biochemistry, radioactive and chemical waste detection, storage and management, systems biology, genomics,
proteomics, materials science, fundamental studies in chemistry and computer science, and catalysis.
"The new HP supercomputer will provide researchers from national laboratories, academia, and industry with the capability to
address very large and complex molecular-level computations associated with DOE's energy security mission and environmental
cleanup programs," added DOE Office of Science Director Raymond Orbach.
For example, the new supercomputer will enable scientists to study a larger group of hydrocarbons, in particular complex
hydrocarbons that are vital to gaining a complete understanding of the reaction mechanisms involved in hydrocarbon fuel
combustion. Providing data about these reactions currently unavailable through experiments should lead to development of more
efficient catalysts and minimized carbon dioxide production.
"As we try to use computational results to replace difficult and expensive experiments, increased computational power is
essential," according to Dave Dixon, EMSL associate director for theory, modeling and simulation. "The advanced architecture
of the HP supercomputer provides the computational power that will permit us to attain close to peak performance on our key
computational chemistry problems."
Delivery of the supercomputer is scheduled to begin with the arrival of HP McKinley-based nodes in mid-2002 and conclude in
2003 with a final shipment of HP Madison-based systems.
The supercomputer is based upon a Quadrics QSNet 2 interconnect that will provide a significantly reduced communication lag
time between processors and will offer highly sustained performance-two factors crucial to computational chemistry research
being done by PNNL. The supercomputer will have 1.8 terabytes of memory and 170 terabytes of disk space. One terabyte is
equal to 1,024 gigabytes.—by Staci Maloof
Pacific Northwest National
Laboratory is a DOE research facility and delivers
breakthrough science and technology in the areas
of environment, energy, health, fundamental sciences
and national security. Battelle, based in Columbus,
Ohio, has operated the laboratory for DOE since
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Author: Staci Maloof is
a science writer and media relations specialist
for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, based
in Richland, Washington. She is a former newspaper
journalist and a member of the National Association
of Science Writers (NASW). For more science news,
News and Publications.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.