The National Institute for Computational Sciences

UT's Kraken Supercomputer Named World's Sixth Fastest

June 23, 2009

KNOXVILLE– Add one more top ten finish to the list of accomplishments at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, home to the world's most powerful academic supercomputer.

The computer, called Kraken, has made the ten best in the most recent edition of the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful computers, announced today at the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

The Top500 list is recognized as the global standard for comparing massive computers and is created every six months by UT–Knoxville Distinguished Professor Jack Dongarra and his colleagues.

Kraken, which now ranks as the sixth fastest computer in the world, has nearly quadrupled its peak speed in the last six months, now clocking in at a speed of 606 teraflops, or 606 trillion calculations per second.

“Kraken’s place on the Top500 list reflects the machine’s ability to conduct breakthrough science on unprecedented scales,” said NICS Principal Investigator and UT Professor Thomas Zacharia. “With a machine of this magnitude, researchers can now begin to solve some of mankind’s most pressing problems. A number of scientific arenas, including climate change, clean energy, biology, and nanotechnology, just to name a few, will benefit enormously from Kraken’s computing power.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and part of UT's National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS), the system is still on the move toward the petascale— 1,000 trillion calculations per second and a major milestone in high-performance computing. While speed is an interesting measure of a computer, at its core Kraken is about research.

"Kraken is a superlative platform providing a combination of excellent scalability with unprecedented size in terms of compute nodes and aggregate memory,” said Robert Harkness, a computational scientist at the University of California–San Diego’s San Diego Supercomputer Center. “We can now attack new problems in cosmology at a colossal scale, which was simply unimaginable just two or three years ago.”

As the most powerful supercomputer funded by the NSF TeraGrid, a network of supercomputers across the United States, Kraken is a vital part of one of the world's largest computational platforms for open scientific research.

“We are pleased to be the largest resource provider in the NSF’s TeraGrid, and we look forward to continuing to advance the NSF’s mission by supplying the scientific community with the best computing resources and environment possible,” said NICS Project Director Phil Andrews.

Kraken and NICS, both housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, stem from an NSF Track II award of $65 million to UT and its partners. NICS won the award in an open competition with leading computing institutions across the country.

Kraken joins another East Tennessee computer in the top 10 of the Top500 list, as ORNL's Jaguar system retained its second-place overall position.

"The NSF’s Kraken at the University of Tennessee has proven itself as the fastest university-based system,” said Dongarra. “Kraken is a world-class machine for the NSF community and is quickly becoming a leading center for open science, complimenting ORNL's DOE Jaguar center."

The NSF award places NICS and UT among a select group of supercomputing facilities. As a result of the collaborative relationship between UT and ORNL, NICS promises to deliver state-of-the-art scientific research and offers researchers a great opportunity to test code on a system that will ultimately surpass the petascale. For more information, visit the NICS website at

C O N T A C T:

Jay Mayfield  (865-974-9409)