RealTime IT News

HP To Make Super-Penguin For DOE

Hewlett-Packard is diving in full force to supercomputing. The company signed a $24.5 million deal this week with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to build a Linux-based supercomputer.

Once fully operational, the supercomputer should be one of the fastest in the world and the world's most powerful Linux-based supercomputer.

Scheduled to be fully operational in 2003, the supercomputer is expected to be more than 30 times faster, have 50 times more disk space and have 10 times more memory than PNNL's current computer, which was one of the world's most powerful when installed in 1997.

When it comes to supercomputers, the big names that come to mind include IBM's chess master Deep Blue or the ASCI White installed at Lawrence Livermore Labs. Compaq Computer , Intel and Cray also have their football field-sized boxes out there, but now HP is putting them all to shame.

According to the bi-yearly list compiled by the TOP500 Supercomputer Sites, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and printer maker's new super machine should rank very high on the list. The new number one list comes out in June.

"HP has worked to help accelerate the shift from proprietary platforms to open architectures, which provide increased scalability, speed and functionality at a lower cost," said HP vice president and CTO Rich DeMillo. "This supercomputer is another validation of HP's service-centric technology vision, exemplifies the power and benefits inherent in the Itanium architecture and Linux, and clearly illustrates that there is more than one top player in the supercomputing market."

Packed with 1,400 of the next generation of Intel Itanium Family Processors (code-named McKinley and Madison), the new HP supercomputer would have an expected total peak performance of more than 8.3 teraflops -- roughly 8,300 times faster than a current personal computer. Calculations that currently take a month to complete could be done in one day on the new system.

The HP supercomputer is slated to be installed at the Molecular Sciences Computing Facility within the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE scientific user facility at PNNL. DOE's Office of Science sponsors EMSL through the Biological and Environmental Research program.

Scientists will be granted access to the supercomputer based on a competitive proposal process and will use it to study complex chemical problems that form the basis for new discoveries in areas such as life sciences, subsurface transport, material design, atmospheric chemistry and combustion. In addition, they will apply the supercomputer to study geochemistry and biochemistry; radioactive and chemical waste detection, storage and management; systems biology; genomics; proteomics; materials science; fundamental studies in chemistry and computer science; and catalysis.

"I'm pleased that the U.S. Department of Energy will now have the world's most powerful Linux-based computer for our pivotal work in biological and environmental research," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "This new computing power will advance scientific study in a host of areas and keep DOE and our national laboratories on the cutting edge of technology. But more than that, it will allow us to better fulfill our mission to the American people to provide the science needed to solve critical energy and national security problems."