The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that one of its supercomputers, Sequoia, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been ranked the world's most powerful computing system. Clocking in at 16.32 sustained petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second), Sequoia was ranked number one on the industry standard Top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers, released on Monday, June 18, at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC12) in Hamburg, Germany.

Sequoia was built for NNSA by IBM. A 96-rack IBM Blue Gene/Q system, Sequoia will enable simulations that explore phenomena at a level of detail never before possible. Sequoia is dedicated to NNSA's Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program for stewardship of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, a joint effort from LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Only 1.6 million cores

Only 1.6 million cores

Sequoia will provide a more complete understanding of weapons performance, notably hydrodynamics and properties of materials at extreme pressures and temperatures. In particular, the system will enable suites of highly resolved uncertainty quantification calculations to support the effort to extend the life of aging weapons systems; what we call a life extension program (LEP),” said Bob Meisner, NNSA director of the ASC program.

The machine will be an important tool used to support stockpile life extension programs, including the B61 and the W78. By reducing the time required for these studies, total costs are also reduced. In addition, the machine is expected to enhance NNSA's ability to sustain the stockpile by resolving any significant findings in weapons systems, bringing greater power to the annual assessment of the stockpile, and anticipating and avoiding future problems that inevitably result from aging. All of this helps ensure that the USA will never have to return to nuclear explosive testing.

Sequoia is an exciting achievement for POWER architecture; not just for its speed and energy efficiency, but also for the important and complex work it can support to safeguard the nation's nuclear stockpile,” said Colin Parris, General Manager, IBM Power Systems. “With supercomputers capable of 16 sustained petaflops, our ability to affect strategic changes in areas like life sciences, public safety, energy and transportation is greater than ever. 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.

For the record, the NNSA/LLNL/IBM partnership has produced six HPC systems that have been ranked among the world's most powerful computers, including: The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) Blue Pacific; ASCI White; the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Purple; Blue Gene/L; Blue Gene/P; and Blue Gene/Q, Sequoia. ASCI White, Blue Gene/L, and now, Sequoia – all attained a number one ranking on the Top 500 list. Sequoia is primarily water-cooled and consists of 96 racks; 98,304 compute nodes; 1.6 million cores; and 1.6 petabytes of memory.

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