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'Kraken' Enters Top 20 

 Every six months, UT Knoxville Distinguished Professor Jack Dongarra and his colleagues announce the list of the world’s 500 most powerful computers. For the first time ever, a UT Knoxville computer is in the top 20.

Kraken, the new supercomputer funded by a $65 million grant from the National Science Foundation to UT Knoxville is 15th on the newly released Top 500 list, announced today at the Supercomputing ’08 conference in Austin, Texas.

Named after a mythical Norse sea monster, the newly unveiled machine has clocked in at a seemingly supernatural peak speed of 166 teraflops, or 166 trillion calculations per second, in just its first few months of operation.

This amazing feat also makes it the world’s second most powerful academic supercomputer.

Ranked in 57th place in the list only six months ago, Kraken is still on the move.

The system, part of UT’s National Institute for Computational Science (NICS), will be upgraded further over the next six to 12 months with a final estimated power that would place it in what is known as the petascale – a thousand trillion calculations per second – and a major milestone in high-performance computing.

"This latest upgrade greatly enhances Kraken’s ability to confront some of science’s most daunting, unanswered questions in a number of fields from astrophysics to climate change to biology," said Thomas Zacharia, UT vice president for science and technology and an associate laboratory director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Kraken has been flexing its muscles since June, delivering over 40 million hours of computing time to scientists and engineers from around the country. Even more significant, according to NICS Project Director Phil Andrews, is that most of the jobs on the machine used at least 2,000 processors, which is the computational equivalent of heavy lifting.

The power will go to good use. Kraken will support climate simulations such as carbon dioxide cycles and the role of ocean currents, contributing to an understanding of the impacts of human activity on climate change and global warming. In addition, it will allow scientists to better tackle questions as big as how the universe was formed and as small as how our genes are structured.