Cray's Jaguar may be world's fastest computer

Watch out Roadrunner, a supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Lab may lead Top500 List.

About five months after IBM's Roadrunner supercomputer became the fastest computer in the world, Cray Inc.'s XT Jaguar could dethrone it next week.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that the latest implementation of the XT Jaguar supercomputer at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., has hit a peak performance of 1.64 petaflops, or more than a quadrillion mathematical calculations per second. Last June, IBM's Roadrunner hit a sustained speed of 1.026 petaflops and a few weeks later it was officially crowned the fastest computer in the world when it made the top spot on the semi-annual Top500 List of supercomputers.

Roadrunner was the first machine to pass the petaflop barrier, and industry watchers likened the achievement was to the first runner breaking the four-minute mile. However, they also noted that other companies, like Cray, were right on IBM's heels.

Steve Scott, chief technology officer at Cray, told Computerworld that the world will find out next week whether XT Jaguar, which runs a Linux-based operating system, has captured the title of world's fastest computer when the latest Top500 List is unveiled at the Supercomputing Conference in Austin. He noted that while the Cray machine surpassed Roadrunner's numbers from last June, the IBM machine, which is operating at Los Alamos National Laboratory, could have been upgraded since then.

Scott said that Cray engineers have been upgrading the scalable Jaguar machine at the Oak Ridge lab since 2004. The scalable supercomputer now has 362 terabytes of memory and a 10-petabyte file system.

This fall Cray developers added 200 cabinets, taking the system from 84 cabinets to 284, according to Scott. Each cabinet can hold up to 192 separate Advanced Micro Devices Inc. quad-core Opteron chips. The entire machine runs 45,000 chips which adds up to 180,000 processors, Scott noted.

"Jaguar is one of science's newest and most formidable tools for advancement in science and engineering," said Raymond Orbach, the DOE Undersecretary for Science, in a statement. "It will enable researchers to simulate physical processes on a scale never seen before, and approach convergence for dynamical processes never thought possible. High-end computation will become the critical third pillar for scientific discovery, along with experiment and theory."

Jaguar is dedicated to open research, meaning that scientists from universities, corporations, government and non-profit organizations can use its compute power for their projects.

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Sharon Gaudin

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