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IBM awarded Gordon Bell Prize

IBM and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been awarded the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for innovation in high performance computing.

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Yorktown Heights, NY, USA - 06 Dec 2005: The award, recently presented at the Supercomputing 2005 event in Seattle, recognizes the work of several researchers from LLNL and IBM Research, specifically John Gunnels and James Sexton.

The prize has been awarded for pioneering materials science simulations, and the level of performance achieved, conducted on the Blue Gene/L supercomputer at LLNL. Simulations of this kind, under high temperature and pressure, provide valuable insights into the properties of materials used, helping the National Nuclear Security Administration to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent — especially as it ages beyond its intended design life — without underground testing.

"In addition to being important to fields such as astrophysics, planetary science, and nuclear physics, such sophisticated computer models may provide insights into a number of different areas such as industrial design and manufacturing," said John Gunnels, researcher in mathematical high performance software. "Other molecular dynamics simulations are already having an impact on research into protein folding, neuroscience, and drug discovery. As larger, more detailed simulations become practical, their impact on these and other fields, such as nanotechnology, will almost certainly increase and move in directions that would be impossible (for me) to predict."
Teamwork is the essential ingredient in the success of the overall Blue Gene project and in the many different individual project collaborations which IBM researchers have developed with LLNL researchers around Blue Gene. To make each project a success, many different individuals have to come together and contribute their individual expertise. The Gordon Bell result is a perfect example.

"To achieve a 100 Teraflops sustained performance required a special machine which was developed with the help of many different individuals across IBM and LLNL," said James Sexton, research staff member. "It also required a complete new software stack and a very careful and detailed effort to develop and tune the application code, all accomplished by the joint effort of LLNL and IBM researchers."

The details
In what was the largest simulation of its kind ever undertaken, the team achieved a performance rate of up to 107 teraflop/s (trillion operations per second) with a sustained rate of 101.7 teraflop/s over a seven-hour run on Blue Gene/L. This performance exceeds the best performance by any other computer on the industry standard LINPACK benchmark.

"The simulation helps us understand the solidification of metals under extreme conditions by modeling the interactions of the individual atoms," said Sexton. "To achieve a realistic result, which can be used to understand the macroscopic properties of the metals involved, the simulation must include very large numbers of atoms. In the Gordon Bell submission, systems of up to 1/2 billion atoms were studied."

The Gordon Bell Prize, named for one of the founding fathers of supercomputing, is awarded to innovators who find practical uses of high-performance computers, including best performance of an application and best achievement in cost-performance.

High Performance Computing Challenge awards
IBM's supercomputing leadership was further demonstrated by its performance in the first annual HPC Challenge Awards, also presented at the Supercomputing event. These awards honor participants in two categories for innovative uses of high performance computing resources.

The Department of Energy/NNSA/LLNL team, using IBM’s Blue Gene/L system, swept the best performance category, winning all four class 1 benchmark awards. This award demonstrates the achievement of IBM Deep Computing, Research and LLNL.

IBM also tied for first place in the most elegant implementation of two or more of the HPC Challenge benchmarks. This award was weighted 50 percent on performance and 50 percent on code elegance, clarity, and size.

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