Supercomputer blows away all others

IBM Corp. delivered the most powerful supercomputer in the world to the

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory this week — a system that will enable

scientists to monitor the condition of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile

without having to detonate them.

The $110 million computer system was shipped in 25 tractor-trailer trucks

for the cross-country trip from an IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, to

the Energy Department laboratory 45 miles east of San Francisco.

The system, code-named ASCI White, has attained a peak performance of

12.3 trillion operations per second, or 12.3 teraflops. That is about three

times faster than the world's most powerful computer to date (3.87 teraflops),

according to IBM program director Tom Haine.

In the past, the United States had to detonate nuclear weapons underground

to see if they still worked. The new supercomputer system will enable scientists

to keep track of the state of the weapons by simulating their condition

and aging.

David Cooper, Lawrence Livermore's chief information officer, said the

supercomputer will be able to contribute to breakthroughs in other areas,

including global finances, pollution and weather monitoring.

The computer is 1,000 times more powerful than "Deep Blue," the IBM

computer that defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997.

It is so powerful that it would take one person with a calculator 10

million years to do the number of calculations that ASCI White can do in

one second, according to IBM. And it weighs 106 tons — the equivalent of

17 full-size elephants.


  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.