Sandia stocks up on supercomputers

Sandia National Laboratories, part of the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, will more than quadruple its institutional computing capacity by early October, Sandia officials said today. Complex computations help the lab develop science-based technologies to support national security.

The new machine, a Dell system dubbed “Thunderbird,” can reach about 60 trillion calculations per second (teraflops) at peak performance but is not designed to run at full power. The system’s more than 8,000 processors will complement Sandia’s older Red Storm supercomputer, which can near about 42 teraflops at top speeds.

“Thunderbird is referred to as a capacity cluster because it is ideally suited to perform many mid-sized tasks with extreme rapidity, rather than one huge task across its entire system like Sandia’s highly customized and tightly coupled Red Storm supercomputer,” Sandia spokesman Neal Singer wrote in the lab’s July 8 newsletter.

Last month, the latest list of the world’s fastest supercomputers ranked the Energy Department’s IBM BlueGene first, followed by a smaller BlueGene system at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

NASA Ames Research Center’s Silicon Graphics-built Columbia machine, which placed third, is a vital component of the Discovery shuttle’s Return-to-Flight mission. Big BlueGene performed 136.8 teraflops, while Columbia clocked in at 51.87 teraflops.

Delivery of the 4,096-server Dell system should be finished by the end of July, according to the newsletter.

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