When President Clinton signed the United Nations Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, you could be forgiven for believing that the nuclear technology race was over. Similarly, when Cray Research filed for bankruptcy in 1995, you could have been forgiven for believing the American supercomputer had seen its day. Could anyone have predicted ?virtual? nuclear testing?
The US Department of Energy has announced a 10-year $1 billion project to simulate underground nuclear testing using computers to be manufactured by Cray Research. Two computers are being purchased for the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Advanced Computing Laboratory in New Mexico and will provide a combined power of over four teraflops (four trillion calculations per second). This will make the system the fastest and most powerful in the world.
Attention is focused on the main project: research into the safety and reliability of a reduced US stock pile. However, the two computers will also be used for numerous other research simulations in areas such as global climate and biotechnology.
The proposed system will be the masterpiece of Cray?s newly launched architecture. Dubbed the Modular Origin 2000 Server Family, Silicon Graphics, Cray?s parent company, announced the availability of the two younger brothers in the new range, a departmental and a high performance server, this quarter; with the superserver, Origin 2000, due in mid-1997. All three are based on the new S2MP high performance multiprocessing architecture, which is designed for ?virtually unlimited scalability?. Purchasers can increase the power of their systems by buying additional ?building blocks? or linking up with another existing Origin system.
The high profile launch of the new product range and the sale to Los Alamos of the world?s biggest supercomputer has ironically come at a strange time for Silicon Graphics - in the same month as the sad death of Seymour Cray (pioneer of the supercomputer and founder of Cray Research) and the fiasco over the dropping of plans to purchase an NEC supercomputer by a US Federal Laboratory. Under threat of penalties from the US Trade Complaints Committee the Laboratory changed its mind and decided to buy from the native supplier, Cray.
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