Blue Gene/Q delivers a smarter planet in record speed

Editor’s note: This article was written by Michael Rosenfield, IBM Research’s director of Deep Computing Systems.

IBM’s Blue Gene/Q supercomputer, Sequoia, at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab took the number one ranking in the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest machines. And 21 other Blue Gene/Q configurations also earned spots on the list – including four in the top 10. Quite an achievement, given that IBM only started shipping these systems in volume to clients earlier this year.

What’s inside Sequoia?

Sequoia is a Blue Gene/Q supercomputer built on IBM Power architecture. It consists of 96 racks; 98,304 compute nodes; 1.6 million cores; and 1.6 petabytes of memory.

Compared to its predecessors, it is 90 times more powerful than ASC Purple, and eight times more powerful than BlueGene/L, relative to the peak speeds of these systems.
The  Sequoia system used by Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) can reach over 16 sustained petaflops – just one petaflop runs 1015 floating-point operations per second! With this power, Sequoia will soon be used to simulate phenomena such as uncertainty quantification (the quantitative characterization and reduction of uncertainty in outcome scenarios across the natural sciences and engineering), hydrodynamics, and the physical properties of materials at extreme pressures and temperatures.

Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration uses Sequoia to research the safety, security and reliability of the United States’ nuclear deterrent – replacing the need for underground testing.

Argonne National Lab's (ANL) Blue Gene/Q-based system Mira is the third-fastest system in the world. Mira is being used to significantly advance science and industry. In science, ANL’s exploration ranges from studying the evolution of our universe to simulating the strong force of subatomic particles. In industry, ANL is working to design more-efficient electric car batteries; understand global climate change; design fast neutron reactors capable of eliminating nuclear waste, and decipher the complexities of the biological world. 

Researchers across academia, government and industry from around the world access Mira through blocks of compute time awarded via the peer-reviewed, competitive INCITE program.

Blue Gene is not only being adopted by our partners at the national labs, but also by our industry partners. For example, Électricité de France, the world's largest utility company, uses the Blue Gene/Q that ranked  #40 in the TOP500 to better manage operations for its electricity generation and distribution business.

Read a related article on the Smarter Planet blog.

The Blue Gene/Q project has been supported and partially funded by the Argonne and Livermore labs on behalf of the United States Department of Energy. In addition IBM gratefully acknowledges the collaboration with Columbia University and Edinburgh University, which also participated in the project..

Top500 IBM Supercomputer Highlights

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