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Story last updated at 1:08 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21, 2000

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  Oak Ridge National Laboratory dedicated its new supercomputer system Tuesday afternoon. Among those on hand for the tour and dedication ceremony were, from left, Jesse Lipcon of Compaq Computer Corp.; Under Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz; Leah Dever, director of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Operations office; Bill Madia, director of ORNL; and Les Price, acting assistant manager for laboratories for DOE.
-- Staff photo by Kelley Scott Walli

New super-fast supercomputers at ORNL

by Paul Parson
Oak Ridger staff

Computers let users ponder "what if," and Oak Ridge National Laboratory's recently acquired supercomputers allow those questions to be answered in record-breaking time.

The recent expansion of ORNL's IBM RS/6000 SP supercomputer pushes its operating level past the one teraflop mark, which is a trillion calculations per second. The IBM RS/6000 SP along with the Compaq AlphaServer SC system give ORNL a computing speed exceeding 1.5 teraflops.

The combination of the two computers provides researchers at the Department of Energy facility with more than 10 times the computing power of ORNL's previous supercomputer, the Intel Paragon XP/S 105, which was the fastest computer in the world in 1995. Later this year, the Compaq system is scheduled to be upgraded to 900 billion calculations per second, further enhancing ORNL's capabilities.

"This marks a significant milestone for us," said Thomas Zacharia, director of ORNL's Computer Science and Mathematics Division. "These computers allow us the unique opportunity to push forward in our science and technology agenda at the laboratory."

Zacharia was just one of several officials speaking Tuesday afternoon at an ORNL dedication ceremony for the supercomputers.

"The machine can work on many pieces of a problem at once," said David McQueeney, vice president of IBM Communication Technology, who also pointed out the IBM RS/6000 SP is No. 11 in a ranking of the top 500 supercomputers.

The IBM computer is dedicated to a range of computational science research while the Compaq machine will be used primarily in the area of computer science, specifically for developing better tools for computational science researchers.

With the implementation of the supercomputers, ORNL Director Bill Madia said Oak Ridge has once again been established as a leading area in unclassified computers.

In keeping with the high-tech theme of Tuesday's event, officials were privy to a virtual ribbon-cutting and an Internet video presentation showing what the supercomputers can do, which includes studying global climate changes and simulating car crashes for safety evaluations.


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