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BigBen even more super after upgrade

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By Rick Stouffer
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006
 

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is more than doubling the capabilities of its Cray XT3 supercomputer nicknamed "BigBen" to 21.5 trillion calculations per second, improving its ability to handle the most demanding science projects.

To put that speed in perspective, if everyone of the Earth's roughly 6.5 billion people each did one calculation per second on a calculator, they still would be about 3,000 times slower than the upgraded BigBen.

"The Cray XT3 has proven itself as a massively parallel scientific platform of exceptional capability," said Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center's scientific directors, in a statement. "We look forward to new insights into important problems that scientists will produce as a result of this upgrade."

The Supercomputer Center, a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon University, Westinghouse Electric Co. and the University of Pittsburgh, will replace BigBen's existing 2,090 processors with Advanced Micro Devices' top-end Opteron dual-core computer chips. The new chips will double the processor count to 4,180, with a corresponding boost in peak performance while also doubling the computer's memory.

More than sheer speed, the supercomputer's primary technological advance has been the speed at which its processors share information, the center's executives said. Such speed is considered an advantage in projects demanding hundreds of thousands of processors working together.

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