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The next-generation supercomputer

Cray X1 system

March 3, 2003—With the delivery in March of the Cray X1 supercomputer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cray Inc., supported by DOE's Office of Science, will take an important step toward investigating computer architectures for scientific discovery.

The Center for Computational Sciences (CCS) at ORNL will deploy the Cray X1 system to test its effectiveness in solving important scientific problems in climate, biology, nanoscale materials, fusion and astrophysics.

Raymond L. Orbach, director of DOE's Office of Science, said the ORNL-Cray partnership is one of the first steps in the initiative to explore computational architectures essential to 21st century scientific leadership. "Modern computational methods are developing at such a rapid rate that computational simulation is possible on a scale that is comparable in importance with experiment and theory," Orbach said.

DOE Office of Science Director Raymond L. Orbach

Under the program, ORNL and Cray will evaluate the processors, memory and scalability of the architecture and software environment of the X1 system to determine its effectiveness for the solution of the most challenging scientific problems. The Cray X1 is the first U.S. computer to offer vector processing and massively parallel processing capabilities in a single architecture. The system has been specifically designed for scientific applications.

Initial delivery of the eight-cabinet expandable Cray X1 system is expected to begin in March, and the system should be fully deployed at ORNL by the end of September.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Bill Madia

The Center for Computational Sciences was established at ORNL in 1991 to evaluate the suitability of new computer architectures for scientific applications and to deliver leadership class computing capability to the scientific community. An important part of the initiative with Cray is to ensure that the next generation computer hardware and systems software are appropriately balanced for scientific needs. CCS is working closely with the academic and laboratory community in evaluating and deploying the Cray system. To address the challenge of climate prediction, CCS is working with the climate community to adapt the Community Climate System Model to the Cray X1 and determine the effectiveness of the machine in simulating regional detail using global circulation models.

ORNL Director Bill Madia said he envisions a partnership that will benefit America's scientists. "We are committed to working with Cray and the scientific community to help ensure that the next generation of supercomputers meets critical research needs. We also look forward to locating the X1 in our new state-of-the-art computational sciences facility, which is scheduled for completion later this year," Madia said.

An artist’s rendering of the soon-to-be completed computational sciences facility (in blue), where the Cray X1 system will be housed

The new facility is a 300,000-square-foot building under construction at the east end of the ORNL campus. It includes a 40,000-square-foot computer center, providing the state-of-the-art infrastructure required by modern high-performance computers. In addition to the OC12 (650Mbit/s) connection to the Energy Sciences Network, the center also is connected to Internet2 via a new OC192 (10 Gbit/s) connection, dramatically enhancing the connectivity between CCS and the university research community.

Cray officials also expressed their excitement over the joint effort. "We are pleased to collaborate with the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in this vital endeavor," said Cray Chairman and CEO James Rottsolk. "We are proud to have the opportunity of providing the next-generation supercomputer to help solve the most demanding classes of scientific and engineering problems."

The Energy Department's most recent supercomputer announcement was in November 2002 when Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced that IBM was awarded a contract for computers named "Purple" and "BlueGene/L" to be housed at the department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. These computers are part of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration's Advanced Simulation and Computing program for the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program.
—Cindy Ross Lundy


Media Contact: Cindy Ross Lundy, ORNL Communications and Community Outreach, (865) 574-1642, lundycr@ornl.gov
Technical Contact: Thomas Zacharia, ORNL Associate Laboratory Director for Computing and Computational Sciences, (865) 574-4897, zachariat@ornl.gov

Related Links

Cray, Inc.

Community Climate System Model

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Computational Science: Construction

Funding: The Cray computer will be funded through the DOE Office of Science's Advanced Scientific Computing Research program.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a DOE multiprogram research facility managed by UT-Battelle. Scientists and engineers at ORNL conduct basic and applied research and development to create scientific knowledge and technological solutions that strengthen the nation's leadership in key areas of science; increase the availability of clean, abundant energy; restore and protect the environment; and contribute to national security.

Cray Inc., with corporate headquarters in Seattle, is the global market leader in high-end supercomputers.

Author: Cindy Ross Lundy is associate director for Communications and Community Outreach at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She manages the lab's Communications Team and has some 25 years of experience in media relations, employee communications, and technical writing and editing. She is a journalism graduate of the University of Tennessee. See more science news from Oak Ridge.


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