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KNOXVILLE — A new University of Tennessee supercomputer has landed among the world’s 60 fastest computers after just a few short months in operation.

“It is tremendous that UT and the National Institute for Computational Sciences have joined the ranks of the elite in high-performance computing with Kraken, the Cray XT3 system, debuting at 57 in the Top500 list,” said Thomas Zacharia, UT vice president for science and technology. “In just two weeks, we will further upgrade Kraken to approximately a 170 teraflops Cray XT4 with AMD quad-core processors, which will place Kraken among the top 10 computers in the world. In the coming months and years, NICS will continue to emerge as a global hub for scientific computing.”

The ranking is part of the Top500 List, released today by a group of scientists including University of Tennessee, Knoxville, distinguished professor Jack Dongarra.

The list, published every six months by UT Knoxville’s Dongarra along with colleagues at the University of Mannheim and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was announced today at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

Notable in this year’s list was the first computer ever to perform more than 1,000 trillion calculations per second — known as a petaflop. That honor fell to a computer named Roadrunner at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Lab.

Another East Tennessee computer took high honors on the list, with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Jaguar Cray XT4 taking the fifth spot, up from seventh place in the November 2007 list. By early next year, the DOE Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL will deploy its own petaflop system, a Cray XT5 Baker.

NICS is seeking “large, tightly coupled applications” to take advantage of the newly designed Cray SeaStar2 interconnect, said NICS project director Phil Andrews. Interconnect is the term used to describe the tools and methods used to connect the thousands of processors that power a supercomputer. Currently a dozen large-scale applications are poised to run at NICS, spanning a diverse range of scientific fields including climate, fusion energy, biology and astrophysics.

Climate figures play a large role in Kraken’s research potential. As climate change continues to gain prominence both in the policy and scientific arenas, powerful systems such as Kraken and Jaguar will take the lead in all types of climate simulations, from carbon dioxide cycles to the role of ocean currents. Just as previous efforts in East Tennessee contributed substantially to the recent Nobel Prize given to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Kraken and Jaguar also will contribute greatly to humanity’s understanding of its impact on the planet.

Kraken ultimately will evolve into a Baker system featuring more than 10,000 compute sockets, 100 trillion bytes of memory and 2,300 trillion bytes of disk space. It will provide more than 700 million CPU hours per year and petascale performance, making it the nation’s most powerful academic supercomputer.

The system, and the resulting NICS organization, are the result of an NSF Track II award of $65 million to the University of Tennessee and its partners to provide for next-generation high-performance computing. The award was won in an open competition among high-performance computing resource institutions vying to facilitate America’s continued competitiveness via the next generation of supercomputers.

As computers perform at faster and faster speeds, it becomes increasingly hard to maintain a spot on the Top500 list. In fact, the slowest computer on this year’s list would have ranked in the top 200 in November.

“As high-performance computing takes an increasingly prominent role in various fields of scientific research, the demand for bigger and faster machines will continue,” said Dongarra, who heads UT’s Innovative Computing Laboratory.

The computers are ranked based on their performance using the Linpack benchmark program, which was developed by Dongarra. The program solves a dense system of mathematical equations, putting the computer through its paces to determine how quickly it performs.

The slowest entry to make this Top500 list came in at a speed of 9 teraflops, nearly 50 percent faster than the slowest in the list of six months ago.

The U.S. is home to a large majority of the world’s fastest computers, with 284 of the Top500.

The next edition of the Top500 list will be released in November at the SC’09 Conference. More information and a complete listing of the Top500 is available at


Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409,
Jack Donagrra (