Energy acquires Linux supercomputer for basic research

One of the largest U.S. computing centers dedicated to unclassified, basic science research added a supercomputer to its inventory today.

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), the flagship scientific computing facility for the Energy Department's Office of Science, accepted a 722-processor Linux Networx cluster system called Jacquard.

The fully operational system is named for Joseph-Marie Jacquard, who, in 1801, invented the first programmable machine using punched cards.

More than 2,000 DOE scientists, academics and other institutional researchers nationwide will use the computer for scientific disciplines such as climate modeling, simulations of the early universe and protein structure investigation.

NERSC users are also simulating combustion to design car engines that use less gasoline and emit fewer pollutants. Some expect that such engines could eventually save up to $31 billion a year in energy-associated costs.

The $3.4 million Jacquard, which can reach speeds of 3.1 teraflops or trillions of calculations per second, will augment a larger, faster NERSC supercomputer. That system, Seaborg, a 6,656-processor IBM machine, works on similar computational problems at speeds of up to 10 teraflops per second.

Cameron Harr, Linux Networx Systems design engineer, said Jacquard offers "great performance for a much lower price" than that of other supercomputers.

He added that NERSC researchers "pride themselves on being secure and having control of their systems.” The center is located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

Another DOE supercomputer, the IBM-built BlueGene/L, performs DOE classified research related to national security and the safety of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. It is rated the fastest supercomputer in the world.

The Defense Department recently acquired Eagle, a $13 million Silicon Graphics system that now ranks as the most powerful in the military. The 2,048-processor supercomputer achieved a benchmark performance of 11.636 teraflops.

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