DOE orders world's fastest supercomputer

The Energy Department will build the world's fastest computer, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced today.

The agency has given the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of Oak Ridge, Tenn., a $25 million grant to start developing a computer that will have a sustained capability of 50 trillion floating-point operations per second.

The total expected cost of the computer will run between $150 million and $200 million, and will be fully operational within five years, said Ray Orbach, who is the director of the Energy Department's Office of Science.

Cray Inc. of Seattle will provide X1, X2 and Red Storm machines. IBM Corp. will provide servers for a 5 TFLOPS portion of the computer that will be housed at Argonne National Laboratory of Argonne, Ill., which partnered with Oak Ridge. Silicon Graphics Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., will provide memory-sharing technologies.

Four Energy Office of Science national laboratories competed for the job: Brookhaven National Laboratory of Upton, N.Y, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of Berkeley, Calif., Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center of Palo Alto, Calif.

Last year, federal R&D policy makers expressed concern over the fact that Japan has built a computer faster than any in the United States. In 2002, Japan brought online a 5,120-vector-processor computer, called the Earth Simulator, that demonstrated a 36T capability.

That computer, built by NEC Corp. of Tokyo, carries out scientific calculation, such as modeling the weather.

"Due to Japan's efforts, the U.S. must make the commitment necessary to regain the clear-cut lead in this new era," Abraham said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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