Public Release: 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop DOE leadership-class computing capability for science

DOE/US Department of Energy

WASHINGTON, DC - Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will grant Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and its development partners, Cray Inc., IBM Corp. and Silicon Graphics Inc., $25 million in funding to begin to build a 50 teraflop (50 trillion calculations per second) science research supercomputer. The department selected ORNL from four proposals received from its non-weapon national labs.

"This new facility will enable the Office of Science to deliver world leadership-class computing for science," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "It will serve to revitalize the U.S. effort in high-end computing."

The supercomputer will be open to the scientific community for research.

ORNL won the award in a peer-reviewed competition with three other Office of Science national laboratories. In response to a solicitation, the four laboratories submitted proposals designed to improve substantially the national research community's computing capability - or ability to perform the largest, most complex simulations - and thereby enhance prospects for important research advances and scientific breakthroughs in all science disciplines supported by DOE and other federal science agencies.

ORNL will be responsible for working with vendors and users to determine the best system architecture for the expected set of computation problems. It will work closely with Cray and IBM as well as Argonne National Laboratory, other DOE national laboratories, and universities to make the new DOE computing capability a success. The facility will be used by DOE for mission-related research, and it also will be open to researchers from around the world for competitive, peer-reviewed research.

"The leadership-class computing capability that now will be developed at ORNL will enable researchers to probe the deepest secrets of Nature - and facilitate the technical, economic and social benefits such understanding will yield," said Secretary Abraham. "It is no exaggeration to say that this machine will give both the U.S. scientific community and industrial sector a significant competitive advantage over the rest of the world.

"We received four excellent proposals in response to our Solicitation for Leadership-Class Computing Capability for Science," Secretary Abraham said. "We thank the four national laboratories for making this important process a win for DOE, the scientific community and the Nation, all well served by the world-class computational capabilities our complex provides for continued discovery and improved national welfare."

Congress set aside $30 million in the Fiscal Year 2004 Energy and Water appropriation, in the words of the conference report, for "the Department [of Energy] to acquire additional advanced computing capability to support existing users in the near term and to initiate longer-term research and development on next generation computer architectures."

The President's FY 2005 request for the DOE Office of Science includes an additional $25 million for such a capability. It is anticipated - but not guaranteed - that, at a minimum, level funding will be available to support the DOE leadership-class computing capability for up to four years beyond FY 2004.

The capacity of the current ORNL Cray X1 computer will be increased to 20 teraflops in 2004 with a 20-teraflop Red Storm-based system from Cray added in 2005. Argonne National Laboratory expects to install a 5-teraflop IBM Blue Gene computer as part of this project. A 100-teraflop Cray system at Oak Ridge is planned for 2006, with the potential to increase to 250 teraflops in 2007.

The supercomputer at ORNL will be housed in a new 170,000 square foot facility that includes 400 staff and 40,000 square feet of space for computer systems and data storage. The machines will run on 12 megawatts of power supplied by the Tennessee Valley [DoE3] Authority.

Computer simulation is now a major force for discovery in its own right. Researchers have moved beyond using computers to solve very complicated sets of equations to a new regime in which scientific simulation enables us to obtain scientific results and achieve discovery in the same way that experiment and theory have traditionally been used. High-end computation today joins theory and experimentation as the third pillar that supports scientific discovery. What's more, there are areas where the only approach to a solution is through high-end computation. That has real consequences: computing capability is now essential for the research advances and scientific progress which will produce vital economic and societal benefits. According to the Science-based Case for Large-scale Simulation (SCaLeS) Report, "the availability of computers 100 to 1,000 times more powerful than those currently available will have a profound impact on computational scientists' ability to simul! ate the fundamental physical, chemical, and biological processes that underlie the behavior of natural and engineered systems."

ORNL was one of four laboratories that submitted proposals in response to a solicitation letter sent to all 10 DOE Office of Science national labs. Proposals also were received from Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

DOE's Office of Science conducted a rigorous and thorough review of the four proposals. The applications were peer-reviewed, with the six external reviewers selected for their scientific expertise and absence of conflict-of-interest. The peer-review panel met for two days to review the four proposals and the panelists submitted their analysis and recommendations to Office of Science Director Raymond L. Orbach. Orbach selected ORNL, based on the external reviewers' advice.

Only DOE Office of Science laboratories were eligible to respond to the solicitation. The department determined that a national laboratory was the logical place for a national computational user facility for capability limited science, because at such a venue the DOE Office of Science can ensure world-class operations, maintenance, security and equal access to all prospective users on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis.

The DOE Office of Science has been a world leader in developing and using advanced computers as tools for scientific discovery and to achieve breakthroughs in targeted applications disciplines.

An UltraScale Scientific Computing Capability - to be located at multiple sites and increasing by a factor of 100 the computing capability available to support open (as opposed to classified) scientific research - was listed as the second highest priority in the DOE facilities plan, Facilities for the Future of Science: A Twenty-Year Outlook. Released in November 2003 by Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, the plan proposed a portfolio of 28 prioritized new scientific facilities and upgrades of current facilities spanning the scientific disciplines to ensure the U.S. retains its primacy in critical areas of science and technology. The list anticipates the large-scale facilities that scientists will require across all fields of science supported by DOE over the next two decades. (The plan is available at


The Office of Science's Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program ( supports fundamental research in applied mathematics, computer science and networking - and provides world-class, high-performance computational networking tools that enable DOE to fulfill its science, energy security, environmental remediation and national security missions. ASCR annually funds research at about 65 academic institutions and the 10 Office of Science laboratories; more than 2,400 scientists in universities, federal agencies and U.S. companies use ASCR-funded high-performance computers each year.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the Nation, manages 10 world-class national laboratories and builds and operates some of the Nation's most advanced R&D user facilities. More information about the office is available at

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