Press Archive

NPACI to Install IBM Teraflops Supercomputer at SDSC

Largest Supercomputer Available to Academic Community

Published 11/04/1998

David Hart, NPACI/SDSC
Glenn Brandow, IBM

SAN DIEGO, CA, November 4, 1998 -- The National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI) announced today an agreement with IBM to install the first computer dedicated to academic researchers that is capable of teraflops performance--one trillion calculations per second.

The supercomputer, to be installed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), 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.

"NPACI is committed to keeping the national research community at the leading edge of high-performance computing," said Sid Karin, director of NPACI and SDSC. "By combining the expertise of NPACI and IBM in supercomputing technology, we can provide researchers with the advanced tools necessary to achieve significant advances in computational science and engineering."

Delivery of the system, an IBM RS/6000 SP with next-generation nodes, is scheduled for the second half of 1999. Initially a quarter teraflops system will be installed and tested, after which it will be upgraded to a full teraflops. When complete, the system will have more than 1,000 Power3 processors and be the largest constructed with IBM's next-generation hardware.

In conjunction with the agreement, SDSC and IBM have expanded their partnership currently involving data storage and digital libraries to include parallel programming environments and Web-based supercomputing.

SDSC and IBM will continue their collaboration to enhance the capability of the High-Performance Storage System to store and retrieve very large amounts of data. At 80 terabytes, the archive at SDSC is the largest in the world based on HPSS and is expected to grow to a petabyte (one quadrillion bytes) in the next few years.

Coupling of digital library technology, data caching, and data storage will make possible information discovery in a variety of discipline-specific data collections. These include, for example, macromolecular structures,brain images, and an atlas of two billion stars and galaxies.

New programming tools and techniques will be developed to support the two levels of parallelism inherent in the next-generation SP nodes: symmetric multiprocessing within individual nodes and message passing between nodes. Such tools will be needed to realize the full potential teraflops supercomputers.

The emerging area of Web-based supercomputing will enable users from around the world to access powerful supercomputers via Web interfaces without needing to program a supercomputer or learn its operating system. For example, biologists using a remotely controlled electron microscope to study specimens could request 3-D reconstructions of the specimen interactively to direct their study. Environmental scientists could perform simulations of an oil spill in San Diego Bay by entering parameters into a Web form.

"By linking the massive computing power of the RS/6000 SP with the leading researchers of our time over the Web, we bring together human intelligence and technology to solve Nature's most perplexing mysteries," said Mike Borman, vice president Worldwide Sales, IBM RS/6000. "The RS/6000 SP has established itself as a leader in scientific and technical computing, and this agreement with NPACI provides further evidence of our commitment to provide solutions for problems of global scale."

NPACI's selection of IBM to install the supercomputer follows an urgent call in August by the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) regarding the importance of increased funding for high-performance computing and networking.

In an August 6, 1998, report to the President, PITAC reported that U.S. funding in high-performance computing technology was notably insufficient compared to other countries and outlined recommendations to ensure U.S. dominance in this arena by earmarking significant budget increases for long-term information technology research and development.

NPACI was established in 1997 as part of the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure program to build the environment for tomorrow's scientific discovery. Led by SDSC, a research unit of UC San Diego, the partnership receives support from the NSF, the State of California, the University of California and other agencies. NPACI activities are built upon the foundation established by SDSC, which since 1985 has served the country as a national laboratory for computational science and engineering. Further information about NPACI and SDSC is available at and

Additional information about IBM can be found on the IBM home page at RS/6000 product information can be found at

AIX, RS/6000, and SP are registered trademarks or trademarks of the IBM Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product and service names, which may be denoted by a double asterisk (**) may be trademarks or service marks of others.