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NASA's Columbia benchmarks 43 teraflops

Just in time for new Top 500 list

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NASA's Project Columbia supercomputer, which went online yesterday, has clocked a top speed of 42.7 teraflops, or 42.7 trillion floating point calculations per second.

Recent progress in the super computing field means that the current Top 500 list of the world's best performing super computers is well and truly out of date. Last month, IBM published benchmark results for its BlueGene machine that put it just ahead of the long standing No. 1 performer, the Japanese Earth Simulator.

Mere weeks passed before NEC announced a new machine with a theoretical top speed of 65 teraflops, which would obliterate the 36 teraflops achieved by BlueGene. However, this number is still theoretical, and because there is often a substantial gap between theory and practice, supercomputers must complete a series of calculations known as the Linpack benchmark to qualify for a chart ranking.

NASA's new machine, named in honour of the crew of the Columbia space shuttle, passed this benchmark test with flying colours, operating at 88 per cent efficiency, NASA said.

Columbia is comprised of an integrated cluster of 20 interconnected SGI Altix 512-processor systems, for a total of 10,240 Intel Itanium 2 processors. It provides NASA a ten fold boost to its computing power, and NASA reports that feedback from scientists has been extremely positive so far. The research and analysis ranges from providing more accurate hurricane predictions, to climate change, galaxy formation, black holes and supernovas.

The next chart is due to be published at the SC2004 supercomputing conference on 6-12 November.®

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