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New Energy Research Teams to Prep for Supercomputers Arriving in 2017

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan Supercomputer

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan Supercomputer // Energy Department

Two of the Energy Department's national laboratories are opening supercomputing research centers, both in collaboration with IBM and Nvidia.

Researchers at the supercomputing "Centers of Excellence," to be based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, plan to study how high-performance computers can be used in energy, climate, and nuclear security research, among other topics. 

The research teams will be preparing for the delivery of two IBM supercomputing systems, slated for 2017, according to Rob Neely, a computer scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. A handful of researchers from IBM and Nvidia will join the centers, and will be funded as part of Energy's approximately $325 million supercomputing contract with IBM, awarded in 2014, Neely said.

Both national labs have several existing computing applications researchers must ensure can work effectively on the new machines, with about five times the performance power of existing models, he said.

The new machines are expected to be operational by 2018, according to IBM.

The team also plans to research how higher-power machines can improve existing applications. 

For instance, Neely said, Energy's systems used to assess the status of nuclear stockpiles "are needing to be more and more predictive," relying less on the results of nuclear testing -- especially as "the stockpile itself is starting to deviate in subtle ways due to things like material aging."

In May, the House approved legislation that would require Energy to invest more in supercomputing research. 

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