The National Institute for Computational Sciences

ORNL Systems Lead in Petascale Science

November 2010 TOP500 list confirms ORNL is the world’s most powerful computing complex

by Leo Williams

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) supercomputers continue to demonstrate their importance to the science community, offering unmatched resources to researchers exploring climate change, alternative energy sources, and the full range of critical science challenges.

Four systems housed at ORNL are among the world’s 35 most powerful supercomputers, according to the latest TOP500 list, released this week at the SC10 conference in New Orleans. These include the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Jaguar system, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) and University of Tennessee’s Kraken, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Gaea. These and other state-of-the-art high-performance computing systems make ORNL the world’s most powerful supercomputing center, able to host computational science projects from around the globe that could not be conducted elsewhere.

“ORNL has long been committed to providing the balanced systems and comprehensive support necessary for real, tangible scientific achievements,” noted Jeff Nichols, ORNL’s associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences. “We’re proud of the systems we’ve been able to stand up, but more importantly we’re proud of the research these systems have enabled.”

For example, Nichols pointed to five applications in physics, materials science, and chemistry that have broken the petascale barrier, taking Jaguar to more than 1 thousand trillion calculations a second (1 petaflop):

  • * Swiss National Supercomputing Center Director Thomas Schulthess and colleagues used DCA++, an application that simulates high-temperature superconductors.
  • * Markus Eisenbach of ORNL and colleagues used WS-LSMS, an application that analyzes magnetic systems and, in particular, the effect of temperature on these systems.
  • * Edoardo Aprà of ORNL and colleagues used NWChem, a quantum chemistry application that accurately describes the electronic structure of water.
  • * Gerhard Klimeck of Purdue University and colleagues used OMEN, an application that delves into the quantum mechanical behavior of electrons traveling through electronic devices at the smallest possible scale.
  • * Schulthess and colleagues once again broke the petaflop barrier with a method that calculates an important parameter for DCA++.

Ordering for the TOP500 list is arranged depending on how systems perform on a benchmark known as High-Performance Linpack. Jaguar, which is the most powerful supercomputer in the United States as well as the most powerful owned by DOE, was ranked number two after being at the top of the list for the past year. ORNL and its partners have six systems on the November 2010 Top500 list with an aggregate capability of more than 3.3 petaflops.

Kraken, which is the most powerful of the NSF’s supercomputers, came in at number eight. Gaea, which is NOAA’s most powerful supercomputer, came in at 32. Two other ORNL supercomputers were also high on the list. A Cray XT4 system that is part of the Jaguar complex was number 30, while an NSF XT4 system called Athena came in at number 52.