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The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn., Frank Munger column [The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn. :: ]
[June 25, 2014]

The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn., Frank Munger column [The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn. :: ]

(Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 25--Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan, a Cray XK7 system with a hybrid architecture, has retained its No. 2 position on the TOP500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers.

According to the new list, released earlier this week, China's Tianhe-2 supercomputer is still the world's fastest machine with a performance of about 33.86 petaflops -- that's more than 33 million billion mathematical calculations per second. The United States has 233 of the world's TOP500 supercomputers, far and away the most of any country, but that number is down from 265 on the previous list released in November 2013. The number of Chinese systems on the list rose from 63 to 76.

Meanwhile, the effort to build more and more powerful computers continues apace. It's a U.S. priority, and Oak Ridge -- as always -- is in the thick of things.

ORNL is joining with two other national laboratories -- Lawrence Livermore in California and Argonne in Illinois -- on a project that will provide each of the labs with a next-generation supercomputer and continue to push the boundaries of what's possible.

The project is called CORAL, which -- simply enough -- stands for Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Livermore, I've been calling it the next big thing in supercomputing, and I think that's appropriate.

The plan is to produce three supercomputers, using two different architectures, and the systems are supposed to be available in the 2017-2018 time frame. There apparently has been significant progress made already, although officials are reluctant to give many specifics at this point.

Buddy Bland, who directs the Leadership Computing Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and who serves as the project director for the Oak Ridge work on CORAL, said the three-lab team has selected the "winning set of systems." But the computer experts at the three laboratories are still working their way through intensive reviews, and it will probably be months before any contracts are awarded, Bland said.

"We hope to be able to issue the first contracts in the fall of this year," he said. "Until the contracts are approved by DOE and awarded, we can't say anything about the winners." Bland explained: "We issued a single Request for Proposals for the three systems. When we jointly evaluated the proposals we were not looking to find the single 'best' system, but rather the best set of two systems that would provide the best value to the U.S. government." He said the would-be vendors have been chosen for negotiations. He said the selections were made in the second half of March -- and the winning companies were notified at that time.

But it appears those companies have been sworn to secrecy.

"Of course, until there is a contract, those selections are subject to change if the contract negotiations don't come to fruition," the ORNL official said.

The 2017 replacement for ORNL's Titan system, as well as the next-gen supercomputers at Argonne and Livermore, is supposed to have a capability up to 200 petaflops -- far beyond any machine that's operating today.

___ (c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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