NNSA supercomputer is world's second fastest

A National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) supercomputer at Sandia National Laboratories rocketed to second place among the world’s fastest supercomputers this fall, making it the fastest general-purpose machine available to the Energy Department’s three NNSA labs.

Following an upgrade, the Red Storm system performed 125 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second) this year, an increase from a speed of 40 teraflops last year, according to Sandia officials.

The implications of this feat extend beyond nuclear security, said James Tomkins, a senior scientist and engineer at Sandia. The machine has run physics and engineering simulations critical to safeguarding the country’s nuclear stockpile, and the Red Storm design has contributed to basic science research.

“The public benefits, first, from the increased security enabled by use of Red Storm to assure that America has a safe, reliable and compelling nuclear deterrent,” he said. “Second, the public benefits from new scientific discoveries enabled by this architecture.”

Red Storm, which became operational in 2005, is the prototype for the new Cray XT3/XT4 supercomputers that the National Science Foundation and Energy Department’s Office of Science have chosen for their most advanced, unclassified computing programs, Tomkins said. The XT3 systems at the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are currently the fastest supercomputers that NSF and the Office of Science own, respectively.

DOE has ordered the forthcoming XT4 model for Oak Ridge and the National Energy Research Supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is one of the largest U.S. supercomputing centers dedicated to unclassified, basic science research.

The upgrade to Sandia’s system involved adding a fifth row of cabinets and outfitting the entire machine with dual-core AMD Opteron processors. Dual-core technology doubles processing capacity without significantly increasing power draw or heat emission.

Sandia and Cray co-designed Red Storm under a contract from NNSA's Advanced Simulation and Computing program.

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