Oak Ridge researchers tout new supercomputer

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is once again among the computational leaders of the world with enhanced supercomputer capability to study everything from chromosomes to global climate change.

But more than raw number-crunching power was on the minds of scientists and Department of Energy officials touring the lab's computer rooms on Tuesday.

``Get science out of this important development,'' Dr. Ernest Moniz, DOE's undersecretary for research and development, urged ORNL researchers.

``We really have at our hands ... now a tool of discovery, and it is going to be your opportunity and your responsiblity to utilize it,'' he said.

An IBM RS/6000 SP supercomputer acquired by the lab last year that resembles a roomful of humming black boxes the size of refrigerators has been upgraded to the teraflop level    1 trillion calculations per second.

Paired with a recently acquired Compaq system, the lab's supercomputing capability is now 1.5 teraflops and is slated to reach 1.9 teraflops later this year with further refinements.

That ranks the Oak Ridge system as the 11th fastest in the world and most powerful computer available for unclassified research in the United States.

But supremacy is a fleeting thing in the realm of supercomputers. Just five years ago the Oak Ridge lab had the world's fastest    an Intel Paragon XP/S 150. The lab's new computer is 10 times faster.

IBM and Compaq representatives were on hand to dedicate the new machines. Jesse Lipcon of Compaq praised the collaboration with the DOE facility, saying what the company learns from its leading-edge customers often finds its way into its commercial products.

David McQueeney of IBM congratulated the lab on reentering the ``very top of the top supercomputer list.''

``But I want to make a point that we shouldn't loose sight of,'' he said, ``that a machine like that, while a fantastic computational engine, is of little value without a tremendous cadre of scientists ... that can use it to do significant science.''

Lab director Bill Madia suggested the lab's researchers have a long list of work for which the supercomputer and its ability to develop three-dimensional simulations will be well-suited.

The lab has established expertise and ongoing research in developing new materials, studying global climate change and the effects of pollution, mapping human chromosomes and safety testing automobiles of the future in virtual reality.

``As we move those important national objectives forward,'' Madia said, ``high performance computing is essential.''

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URL http://www.csm.ornl.gov/PR/AP6-21-00.html
Updated: Tuesday, 12-Sep-2000 10:28:44 EDT