IBM is showing off its latest supercomputer advances with a system called Sequoia that is officially ranked the world's most powerful, capable of sustaining over 16 petaflops, taking top spot from Fujitsu's K computer.
Meanwhile, the firm has also taken the performance crown in Europe with the world's first commercially available hot-water cooled supercomputer, which delivers a 40 per cent saving on energy consumption.
Sited at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sequoia has been built for the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to perform complex simulations needed for safe and secure management of the country's nuclear weapons stockpile.
The system is based on IBM's Blue Gene/Q architecture and occupies 96 racks, consisting of 98,304 compute nodes with 1.6 million PowerPC processor cores and 1.6 petabytes of memory. It is "orders of magnitude" more powerful than predecessor systems such as Blue Gene/L, IBM claimed.
Although Sequoia is being used for simulations to extend the lifetime of the US military's nuclear stockpiles, the technology will deliver benefits in other areas, according to IBM.
"With supercomputers capable of 16 sustained petaflops, our ability to affect strategic change in areas like life sciences, public safety, energy and transportation that make our world smarter is greater than ever," said Colin Parris, general manager of IBM Power Systems.
"The improvements in affordability, performance, efficiency and size that Sequoia delivers will also enable a broader set of commercial customers to implement HPC for their competitive advantage."
IBM has also helped build a new system for the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) in Munich, which is claimed to be the world's first commercially available hot-water cooled supercomputer and the most powerful computer in Europe.
Dubbed SuperMUC, the system is built using racks of IBM System x iDataPlex dx360 M4 servers, which are based on Intel Xeon processor chips.
SuperMUC has more than 150,000 processor cores and can provide a peak performance of up to three petaflops.
This power will be put to use in applications such as simulating blood flow in artificial heart valves, geophysics, and research aimed at greater understanding of earthquakes.
However, it is the new cooling system that makes the system noteworthy, using direct water cooling of components such as the processors and memory modules, rather than a more traditional air cooling system.
This system uses up to 40 per cent less energy than a comparable air-cooled installation by not using any energy to chill the coolant first. Instead, the so-called hot-water cooling system can use liquid at anything up to 45 degrees Celsius, which may be heated as high as 70 degrees after flowing through the system, a temperature that allows the energy to be re-used for heating purposes.
SuperMUC is set to be officially inaugurated in July 2012.
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