IBM claims supercomputing crown - SuperMUC, IBM press office

IBM has announced a range of achievements in the supercomputer space.

The company is celebrating its Sequoia supercomputer, which was built for the  National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and has been ranked as the most powerful computing system.

IBM built Sequoia for the NNSA's Advanced Simulation and Computing program to help with research and calculations of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

Housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the computer clocks in at
16.32 sustained petaflops - quadrillion floating point operations per second - earning it the number one ranking on the industry standard Top500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

Other features of the computer, which also gave it the edge, include the 96-rack IBM Blue Gene/Q system. This feature allows calculations of nuclear weapon materials and eliminates the need for underground testing.
 
NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino, said: “While Sequoia may be the fastest, the underlying computing capabilities it provides give us increased confidence in the nation’s nuclear deterrent as the weapons stockpile changes under treaty agreements, a critical part of President Obama’s nuclear security agenda."

He added that the supercomputer would give researchers a "more complete" understanding of
weapons performance, notably hydrodynamics and properties of materials at extreme pressures and temperatures.

Bob Meisner, NNSA director of the ASC program, added that the system would in particular "enable suites of highly resolved uncertainty quantification calculations to support the effort to extend the life of aging weapons systems."  
 
IBM said that the machine would also be an important tool to support stockpile life extension programs as well as enhancing NNSA’s ability to sustain the stockpile by resolving any significant findings in weapons systems. This, it said, would bring greater power to the annual assessment of the stockpile, as well as anticipating and avoiding future problems that often result from aging.

All of this, IBM says, helps to ensure that the nation would never have to return to nuclear testing.
 
Sequoia is primarily water cooled and consists of 96 racks; 98,304 compute nodes; 1.6 million cores; and 1.6 petabytes of memory.

IBM also announced that it has built the "first" commercial Hot-Water Cooled Supercomputer.

Built in partnership with the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ), the machine has been  designed to help researchers and labs across Europe investigate and solve some of the world's most daunting scientific challenges.

Going by the name of the LRZ "SuperMUC", the system was built with IBM System x iDataPlex Direct Water Cooled dx360 M4 servers with more than 150,000 cores, which are claimed to provide a peak performance of up to three petaflops. This is said to be the equivalent to the work of more than 110,000 personal computers.

The system's hot-water cooling makes it 10 times more compact than other machines as well as consuming 40 percent less energy, according to IBM.

This new technology works by directly cooling active components in the system such as processors and memory modules with coolant temperatures that can reach as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, or 45 degrees Celsius.

SuperMUC combines its hot-water cooling capability, which removes heat 4,000 times more efficiently than air, with 18,000 energy-efficient Intel Xeon processors. In addition to helping with scientific discovery, the new technology is also said to save money and energy.

The energy saved here has been reused to heat the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre campus in the winter, which is said to have saved the centre $1.25 million per year.

The SuperMUC system is also connected to powerful visualisation systems, including a large 4K stereoscopic power wall and a five-sided immersive artificial virtualreality environment or CAVE for visualising 3D data sets from fields, including Earth science, astronomy and medicine.