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Cray to Build 20-Petaflop System

The global race for ever-faster supercomputers is getting a new entry.

Cray announced this month that it won a contract from the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to build a system capable of up to 20 petaflops of peak performance. The deal is worth more than $97 million, the company said.

The new system, called Titan, is expected to be completed by 2013. It's a major upgrade of Oak Ridge's existing Jaguar supercomputer, which was also built by Cray and tops out at 2.33 petaflops. Each compute node on the Jaguar has two AMD Opteron processors.

The Titan system will include graphics processing units (GPU) as well as CPUs. The project involves removing one of the Opteron processors on each Jaguar node and replacing it with an Nvidia GPU. The new system will include up to 18,000 GPUs.

"We see this as a step toward the next kind of large system, which is obviously going to be 100 petaflops," said Sumit Gupta, manager of Nvidia's Telsa GPU business.

GPUs have been considered mostly experimental in supercomputing, said Steve Conway, an IDC analyst.

Oak Ridge said researchers will use Titan for "increasing the realism of nuclear simulations" and "improving the predictive power of climate simulations," among other things.

IBM is also building a 20-petaflop supercomputer, the Sequoia, which is due to be completed next year. Today's fastest computer is Japan's K computer, an 8-petaflop system.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Read more about hardware in Computerworld's Hardware Topic Center.

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