Labs show what 64-bit can do

Some of the government's biggest research labs are embracing 64-bit computing technology, which they say is ideal for the complex scientific applications and mathematical calculations they run on a daily basis.

The Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., each have launched supercomputer efforts that take advantage of the speed, accuracy and massive storage capabilities of 64-bit processors.

PNNL earlier this year purchased a $24.5 million Hewlett-Packard Co. Linux-based supercomputer consisting of 1,388 64-bit servers that run Intel Corp.'s latest Itanium processor. The supercomputer, which will be fully operational in early 2003, will be used to simulate environmental conditions and to design materials and other scientific studies.

Scott Studham, who manages the lab's molecular sciences computing facility, said the 64-bit processors used in the supercomputer would provide improved performance of scientific applications as well as enormous amounts of memory. The new computer is expected to be more than 36 times faster and support 15 times as much memory as the lab's 32-bit supercomputer, which Studham said will be discontinued.

Sandia, meanwhile, has launched a project called Red Storm, working with Cray Inc. to develop a $90 million supercomputer that will use more than 10,000 of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s forthcoming 64-bit Opteron processors.

The supercomputer will be used for nuclear weapon engineering simulations and materials research. It is expected to be at least seven times more powerful than Sandia's existing supercomputer and is scheduled for deployment in 2004.

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