Supercomputer bill passed

The House approved a bill this week designed to boost U.S. supercomputing competitiveness.

By a voice vote, the House passed the Energy Department High-End Computing Revitalization Act, which would establish a research and development (R&D) program within the Energy Department to develop new computing capabilities. Researchers and engineers from academia, government and industry will be granted access on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis. The bill authorizes $50 million for fiscal 2005, $55 million for fiscal 2006 and $60 million for fiscal 2007.

The House first passed the measure, but it was amended to reflect negotiations with the Senate, which unanimously passed the bill last month. Now it goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

"High-performance computers are central to maintaining U.S. leadership in many scientific fields," said Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), chairwoman of the House Science Committee's Energy Subcommittee and the original sponsor of the bill. "With House passage of this bill, American researchers are one step closer to gaining the tools they need to remain the world leader in the development and use of supercomputers."

The United States recently regained the top supercomputer speed mark.

The latest Top 500 list of the world's fastest computers, released Nov. 8, names the IBM-built BlueGene/L system the world's fastest computer. Energy officials announced last week a peak processing speed of 70.72 teraflops for BlueGene, which is being built for use at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. Officials at the department and IBM have said BlueGene is still far from its eventual peak capacity.

NASA's Silicon Graphics Inc.-built Columbia system, which has hit processing speeds of 51.87 teraflops, is ranked second on the Top 500 list. NEC's Earth Simulator supercomputer, which held the speed record for two years until BlueGene broke the mark in September, is used by the Earth Simulator Center in Yokohama, Japan.

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