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Tech Industry

IBM to send blazing fast supercomputer to Energy Dept.

Big Blue says the U.S. Department of Energy will use Sequoia, which will be nearly 20 times faster than the world's current fastest supercomputer, for nuclear weapons testing.

This story has been corrected. See below for details.

IBM plans to announce on Tuesday that it will supply the world's fastest supercomputer to the U.S. Department of Energy in the next few years, according to numerous reports.

Not only will the machine, called Sequoia, be the fastest supercomputer to date, it will blow the current record-holder out of the water. IBM's Roadrunner, located at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, was the first system to reach 1.026 petaflops (a petaflop is equal to a quadrillion calculations per second; the "flops" stands for floating point operations per second). But only seven months after the Roadrunner took top honors on a twice-yearly list of the world's fastest supercomputers, IBM is announcing that its successor will outdo it by an order of magnitude. Sequoia will be able to work at a staggering 20 petaflops, the equivalent of the computing power of 2 million laptops according to Reuters.

IBM says it plans to deliver the Sequoia to the Energy Department for use at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The supercomputer will run simulations to test the soundness of the nation's stockpile of nuclear weaponry, according to the IDG News Service.

With Sequoia, IBM continues to make its supercomputers more energy-efficient as it makes them more powerful. Sequoia will draw 6 megawatts of power. "Though orders of magnitude more powerful than such predecessor systems as the 100 teraflop ASC Purple (4.8 megawatts) and the 590 teraflop BlueGene/L (about 2.5 megawatts), Sequoia will be 160 times more energy efficient than Purple and 17 times more efficient than BlueGene/L (looking at cost per teraflop of computing power)," according to Lawrence Livermore spokesman Don Johnston.

Editor's note: When it was initially published, this story cited inaccurate data from another publication about Sequoia's energy usage. The units used have been corrected, and the story has been updated with more information from Lawrence Livermore.