PNNL campus boasts 13th fastest computer in world

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldDecember 2, 2013 

This is one of the data storage units for Cascade, EMSL’s new supercomputer.

EMSL AT PNNL

The Tri-Cities is home to the 13th fastest computer in the world, according to the latest international ranking by German and U.S. scientists.

Cascade supercomputer will begin operating by the end of the month at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, which is on the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus in Richland.

Cascade can perform about 2.54 quadrillion -- that's 2.54 million billion -- calculations per second.

That peak performance was reached after information was submitted for the November biannual Top500 List, which is compiled by scientists in Germany and the United States. But even the 2.35 quadrillion calculations per second, or petaflops, submitted was enough to rank No. 13.

The fastest computer on the list was developed by China's National University of Defense Technology and has a speed of 33.86 petaflops. No. 2 is another DOE machine, Titan at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, with a speed of 17.59 petaflops.

Earlier this year, EMSL acquired Cascade from Atipa Technologies for $17 million to replace its current supercomputer, Chinook, which was the 21st fastest computer in the world when it was installed in late 2008. It had sustained performance of 0.16 petaflop.

Cascade will be used for research in climate and environmental science, chemical processes, biology-based fuels to replace fossil fuels and new materials for energy applications, EMSL officials said when it was purchased.

Among its benefits will be increased speed to develop improved climate models and more realistic looks at complex biological interactions as it produces more details about how organisms work.

EMSL is one of DOE's national user facilities and scientists around the world apply on a competitive basis to use Cascade as well as EMSL's nearly 150 experimental instruments. More than 250 scientists performed calculations on Chinook each year.

PNNL also has a supercomputer, Olympus, which is reserved for PNNL staff and their collaborators. It's slightly faster than Chinook.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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