Los Alamos buys new supercomputer

Los Alamos National Laboratory has bought a new computer system designed to move multiple terabytes of data and create visual representations as part of its role in monitoring America's nuclear stockpile.

The Onyx4 UltimateVision from Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) includes 80 processors and will be installed this fiscal quarter, according to SGI Federal, the company's federal subsidiary in Silver Spring, Md.

Scientists at the laboratory will use the system as part of the Energy Department's Stockpile Stewardship Program.

In monitoring and managing nuclear weapons stockpiles, Los Alamos scientists need to convert raw data into a visual representation. The Onyx4 features a scalable system architecture and large shared memory specifically designed to quickly process multi-terabyte data sets.

"Researchers at Los Alamos are confronted with enormous data sets," said Bob Tomlinson, simulation support manager at the laboratory's Advanced Simulation and Computing Initiative program, in a statement. "The scalability and throughput of Onyx4 provides new technology to visualize those data sets, and can rapidly deliver granular-level results."

The contract win came on the heels of bad news for SGI. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency did not choose the company to advance from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of a supercomputer research project DARPA is funding.

Onyx4 can generate more than 40 gigapixels of screen image per second, enough to put a new image on the average screen of every computer in the world nearly 5000 times a day, said Shawn Underwood, director of marketing at SGI's Visual Systems Group.

The new system will be formally launched at a ceremony in Silver Spring July 16.

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