Press Archive

NPACI'S IBM SP Configuration Ranks Among the World's Top Ten Fastest Supercomputers

Computer at SDSC the Most Powerful in the U.S. Dedicated to Academic Research

Published 11/12/1999

Contact: David Hart, SDSC,, 858-534-8314

Poughkeepsie, NY - November 12, 1999 - Recent benchmarks run on a portion of the IBM RS/6000 SP slated to be installed by the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI) at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) later this year have placed the partial system at number 10 in the Top 500 Supercomputing Sites list (, maintained by the University of Mannheim and the University of Tennessee.

The IBM SP has also proven itself in its first real-world application while still in Poughkeepsie, New York. Running SDSC's Massively Parallel Interactive Rendering Environment (MPIRE,, the SP rendered 28,504 high-resolution animation frames using 984 processors on the IBM SP. From four gigabytes of raw data, the effort produced nearly 140 gigabytes of output in more than 675,000 processor-minutes.

On a single-processor system, that would have required 1.25 years; on the SP, the jobs finished in 11.5 hours. The images are part of a virtual space flight to the Orion Nebula, a component of the Digital Galaxy project, a collaboration between SDSC, the American Natural History Museum's Rose Center for Earth and Space, and NASA.

The IBM SP, the largest available to the U.S. academic community, will help researchers tackle demanding, deep computing problems such as determining chemical reaction rates, designing new materials, simulating the nervous system, modeling water and pollutant transport, modeling climate and predicting storms, and understanding the origins of the universe.

"The computing capability of the new IBM SP will open up new avenues for scientific discovery," said Sid Karin, director of SDSC and NPACI. "With this system, not only will researchers be able to enlarge today's simulations, but they can also go back to the drawing board to devise computations not yet considered."

The benchmark used by the Top 500 list for its rankings was run on 120 eight-processor SMP High Nodes of the system being assembled at IBM's facility in Poughkeepsie. The completed installation at SDSC will be even larger, with 144 nodes and 1,152 222-MHz Power3 processors. The system will be the largest with the recently announced SMP High Nodes.

The 120-node system achieved a sustained performance of 558 gigaflops -- billions of calculations per second. The 144-node system, with a peak performance of 1.02 teraflops, should sustain more than 650 gigaflops on the LINPACK benchmark used by the Top 500 list for its rankings. LINPACK solves a dense system of linear equations, and since the problem is very regular, the performance numbers give a reasonable measure of peak achievable performance.

"The achievement of the IBM RS/6000 SP system that will be installed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center underscores IBM's commitment to high performance computing," said Rod Adkins, general manager, IBM RS/6000. "The POWER3 Nodes IBM introduced earlier this year have propelled the Center into the top 10 and helped IBM become the number one vendor on the TOP500 list."

Funded through the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, the new IBM SP system will provide one teraflops of computing power to the U.S. academic research community. Allocations on the machine will be made through the NPACI allocation process, with preference given to problems that take advantage of the machines unique capability. See for more information.


The National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI) unites 46 universities and research institutions to build the computational environment for tomorrow's scientific discovery. Led by UC San Diego and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), NPACI is funded by the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program and receives additional support from the State and University of California, other government agencies, and partner institutions. The NSF PACI program also supports the National Computational Science Alliance. For additional information about NPACI ( and SDSC (, contact David Hart at SDSC, 858-534-8314,