IBM Sequoia Supercomputer grabs World's Fastest crown

IBM has reclaimed the World's Fastest Supercomputer crown, with a 16.32 sustained petaflop monster called Sequoia installed at the  National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Based on a 96-rack IBM Blue Gene/Q system, NNSA's new toy will be used to model nuclear weapons management, including artificial testing so as to avoid the need for underground performance tests. The supercomputer record was previously held by Fujitsu with its K Computer, that came in at 10.51 petaflops.

As well as running faster, Sequoia also consumes less power than the Fujitsu. The IBM system demands 7.9 megawatts in use, more than a third less than the K Computer.

"Sequoia will provide a more complete understanding of weapons performance, notably hydrodynamics and properties of materials at extreme pressures and temperatures" Bob Meisner, NNSA director of the ASC program said of the new supercomputer. "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)."

The system's huge crunching power will allow it to quickly sift through incredible numbers of different models, trying to figure out which is most stable and attempt to cut out some of the uncertainty involved in nuclear devices.

For the most part water-cooled, Sequoia's 96 racks consist of 98,304 compute nodes, 1.6 million cores and 1.6 petabytes of memory. A US company last held the top spot in supercomputing performance two years ago, though was beaten by a Chinese rival.