NASA's 1,024-CPU supercomputer gets an upgrade

As it continues to build and develop a global grid network of supercomputers, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration has just upgraded a key supercomputer in California to give it more power for research. The upgraded machine is now the most powerful high-performance computing system used by NASA scientists to date, according to the agency.

In an announcement this week, NASA said that its 1,024-processor SGI Origin 3800 shared-memory supercomputer, located at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., has gotten an upgrade that will boost its speed by up to 37 percent.

The machine, built by Mountain View, Calif.-based Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI), received 1,024 MIPS R14000A microprocessors running at 600 MHz, replacing microprocessors that ran at 400 MHz. The new processors will push the supercomputer's processing power from 819.2 billion floating-point operations per second (GFLOPS) to 1,228.8 GFLOPS of theoretical peak speed, according to John Ziebarth, chief of NASA's Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at Ames.

Officials at NASA and SGI weren't available for comment early today.

NAS is working to build and test NASA's global Information Power Grid (IPG), which includes supercomputers, large databases and scientific instruments and allows access by researchers to high-performance computing resources. Part of a joint effort among government, academia and industry, the IPG will help NASA scientists collaborate on a variety of issues.

Ziebarth said the more powerful processors in the Ames supercomputer will allow researchers "to tackle some very big data problems in new ways." The research includes aeronautics, earth sciences and life sciences and is being conducted by professionals in the government, defense, science and manufacturing markets.

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