Bull bills Tera 100 as Europe's first petaflop computer

Bull is aiming for over 1 petaflop of sustained performance when it finishes tuning the computer in September

French server and services company Bull has just turned on a new supercomputer for the French Atomic Energy Authority (CEA) that it hopes will reach a peak performance of 1.25 petaflops later this year.

The machine will be used to simulate nuclear weapons, allowing the French armed forces to ensure the reliability of their nuclear deterrent without conducting live tests, the CEA said.

The Tera 100 contains 140,000 Intel Xeon 7500 processor cores and 300TB of memory, while the file system will have a throughput of 500GB/s and total storage of 20PB, Bull said.

If Bull attains its performance target, it will likely make Tera 100, as the computer is known, the most powerful in Europe, ahead of an IBM computer called Jugene at the Jülich research center in Germany.

Jugene has a sustained maximum performance of 0.825 petaflops and a peak performance of 1 petaflop (1 million billion floating-point operations per second.)

Bull's previous record-breaker, inaugurated last year, is also at Jülich. It contains 23604 Intel Xeon X5570 cores and has a sustained maximum performance of 0.274 petaflops.

That computer is 13th in a ranking of the world's fastest supercomputers published last November by Top500.org. The most powerful, built by Cray for Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the U.S., contains 224,162 Opteron cores and has a sustained maximum performance of 1.759 petaflops.

Bull says its simulations indicate that Tera 100's peak performance will be around 1.25 petaflops, and its sustained maximum performance around 1 petaflop. If the computer had been operating last November, that level of performance would have put it among the world's top three.

A new Top500 ranking, the 35th edition, will be published next week, during the International Supercomputer Conference in Hamburg.

However, Bull only turned Tera 100 on for the first time on Wednesday, and it may take until September to tune it and measure its performance. That means Bull will have to wait until next November, with the publication of the 36th edition of the Top500, to know where Tera 100 stands in the world rankings.

It's still likely to be the most powerful in Europe -- it's hard to build a computer of that scale in secret, and no others have been publicly announced -- but competition from elsewhere could be fierce.

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