Supercomputer souped up

IBM Corp. shipped the most powerful supercomputer in the world to the Lawrence

Livermore National Laboratory last week, enabling scientists to monitor

the condition of nuclear weapons without having to detonate them.

The $110 million computer system, code-named ASCI White, is made up of 512

computers linked together that take up the space of two basketball courts.

It has attained a peak performance of 12.3 trillion floating-point operations

per second (teraflops), according to IBM program director Tom Haine. It's

the successor to a supercomputer in use at the Livermore lab that can perform

at about 3 teraflops.

ASCI White is the first computer to exceed the double-digit teraflop speed

barrier and does so through a combination of faster copper processors — rather than aluminum — and sophisticated software that coordinates activity

so that the system runs as if all its parts were one, said Jim Jardine,

project manager for ASCI White.

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.

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.

—Johnston is a reporter for IDG News Service.


  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • 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.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.