New Linux supercomputer coming to Livermore

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US will soon be getting a heavyweight new Linux supercomputer that will be one of the most powerful Linux-based supercomputers on Earth.

The machine will theoretically be capable of 9.2 trillion floating-point operations per second (TFLOPS) and will be used to help the Livermore, Calif.-based lab as it conducts ever-more complex scientific experiments involving climate, earthquakes and other physical phenomena.

The computer is being built by Linux NetworX Inc. and is expected to be delivered to the lab by the first week of September, said Mark Seager, an assistant department head at the laboratory. The lab is a U.S. Department of Energy facility operated by the University of California where experiments are conducted in global climate modeling, material properties, earthquakes and other large-scale, high-performance simulations of physical phenomena. The lab was founded in 1952 as a nuclear weapons design lab and continues to conduct scientific research in the interests of national security.

Seager said the new machine, which will run on Red Hat Linux 7.3, will replace an existing 1.8T FLOPS Linux supercomputer. The supercomputer is being built in 10 96-node scalable units that will be put together to create a 960-node machine containing a total of 1,920 Intel Xeon 2.4-GHz processors. A total of 3.84TB of RAM will be built into the machine, along with 115TB of total hard-disk capacity. Another 110TB of global disk capacity will be available outside the supercomputer.

The machine will be used for unclassified research at the lab at a cost of US$10 million to $15 million, Seager said.

Clark Roundy, vice president of marketing at Linux NetworX, said the lab's supercomputer is being built from the company's Evolocity cluster platforms, which feature sub-1U sizes for higher hardware densities. (One U equals 1.75 in.) The Evolocity hardware also features upgraded heat dissipation and a special Linux BIOS that incorporates the BIOS into the Linux kernel, allowing faster boot-up times and increased system manageability, Roundy said.

The new system will be one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet, according to the Top 500 Supercomputers Web site maintained by the University of Tennessee and the University of Mannheim in Germany. The No. 1 supercomputer in the world is the Earth Simulator at the Earth Simulator Center in Japan, according to That machine, built by NEC Corp., has a theoretical peak of 35.86T FLOPS. The No. 2 machine on the list is the ASCI White IBM-built supercomputer at Livermore, which is rated at 7.22T FLOPS.

The new LinuxNetworX machine will likely move into the No. 2 slot once it's built and operational.

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