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Originally appeared in Wednesday, May 12, 2004 Oak Ridger

ORNL nabs supercomputer deal

LAB CHIEF: 'Oak Ridge will help lay the foundation for our country's next generation of scientific discovery.'

By: Paul Parson | Oak Ridger Staff

The Department of Energy plans to build the world's fastest supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, according to information leaked to the national news media.

"This is a historic decision for the nation and for ORNL," said Jeff Wadsworth, the lab's director. "America will regain its leadership in high-performance computing. And, Oak Ridge will help lay the foundation for our country's next generation of scientific discovery."

ORNL was one of four DOE Office of Science national laboratories vying for the supercomputer project. The local lab competed against Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.; and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Palo Alto, Calif.

fisheye view of CCS
Here's a look inside Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Computational Sciences - the nation's largest unclassified computing facility. Considered part of the lab's $300 million modernization program, the facility has 40,000 square feet of space for computer systems and data storage.


Lab officials said the supercomputer deal may be the most important project for ORNL since the Spallation Neutron Source - a top-notch research facility currently under construction in Oak Ridge.

Japan's Earth Simulator - the world's current fastest supercomputer - is capable of 40 teraflops, or 40 trillion calculations per second, according to officials.

While ORNL is expected to receive an initial $25 million grant to begin developing a sustained, high-speed computing capability of 50 teraflops, lab officials hope to achieve 100 teraflops by 2006 and 1,000 or more teraflops by the end of the decade. Reportedly, ORNL will receive two years of federal grants totaling $50 million.

The Oak Ridge lab's Center for Computational Sciences is likely the reason the research facility won the competitive bid for the supercomputer project. The new 170,000-square-foot facility, which includes 40,000 square feet of space for computer systems and data storage, is part of the ORNL's $300 million ongoing modernization effort.

ORNL has several major networks in place or under construction, linking the computer facility with DOE laboratories, universities and other centers.

According to an ORNL fact sheet, the Energy Sciences Network links the local lab with the other facilities at a data transfer speed of 622 megabits per second, with plans to upgrade to 2.5 gigabits per second.

ORNL also connects to the academic community through the National Science Foundation Internet2 network, which has a data transfer speed of 10 gigabits per second, according to the fact sheet.

Cray Corp., IBM Corp. and Silicon Graphics Inc., all private companies, will be involved in the ORNL supercomputer project, according to lab spokesman Mike Bradley. Other participants include Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Duke University, the universities of Texas and Tennessee, and Argonne and Pacific Northwest national laboratories.

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