RealTime IT News

Cray, AMD to Power Sandia Supercomputer

The U.S. Department of Energy Monday said it has inked a multiyear contract with computer maker Cray to build a new massively parallel processing (MPP) supercomputer at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The new $90 million project, named "Red Storm" will use upcoming Advanced Micro Devices AMD Opteron processors connected via a low-latency, high-bandwidth, three-dimensional mesh interconnect network based on HyperTransport technology.

Opteron is a high-end member of the new line, code-named Hammer, that is due out next year and viewed by analysts as AMD's best hope for recovery. Like the Itanium, Hammer chips are designed to process 64 bits of information at a time, instead of 32 bits, a capability that helps run huge databases and solve scientific problems.

The computer is expected to use more than 10,000 AMD Opteron processors and will have a theoretical peak performance of 40 trillion calculations per second (teraOPS) using two calculations/clock cycle, or 20 teraops using one calculation/clock cycle is expected to become operational in fiscal year 2004.

The partnership with Cray is a boon for AMD, which has seen much of its market share shift to rival Intel . Cray also benefits from the partnership dominated by likes of NEC , which owns the bragging rights to the fastest supercomputer, as well as Hewlett-Packard , IBM and Sun Microsystems .

"This computer will allow modeling and simulation of complex problems that were only recently thought impractical, if not impossible," said Sandia Senior Vice President for Nuclear Weapons Programs Tom Hunter. "Calculations that would have taken months only a dozen years ago will now be done in a matter of minutes. This investment by Sandia and the NNSA represents a clear commitment to provide the essential capabilities to support the nation's nuclear weapons program. It is a major step toward establishing computing as the key enabler of science and engineering in the 21st century and reemphasizes our role as one of the world's leaders in that transformation."

The new supercomputer is expected to be at least seven times more powerful than Sandia's current ASCI Red supercomputer on actual weapons problems. ASCI Red was the first supercomputer delivered under the ASCI program.

"Red Storm embodies the same design philosophy as our new Cray X1 vector-based product in a highly cost-effective superscalar architecture and will be a key initiative for Cray," said Cray chairman and CEO Jim Rottsolk. "With X1 and Red Storm Cray is demonstrating its comprehensive capabilities in the high-performance scientific and technical marketplace."

Jim Tomkins one of the co-architects said the supercomputer's design was strongly influenced by the successes of the Cray T3E and ASCI Red MPP supercomputers.

"The Red Storm contract contains an option to upgrade to 60 teraOPS. The Red Storm system architecture is designed to scale to hundreds of teraOPS." Tomkins,