ALCF Advances to Next Generation Machine

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google E-mail Printer-friendly version

Come 2012, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) will be home to Mira, a 10-petaFLOPS IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer that will give scientists a new tool for scientific discovery. Mira, after the Latin root to wonder or marvel, will be used for a wide range of research, including designing ultra-efficient electric car batteries, predicting fluid flow and convective heat transport in advanced nuclear reactor designs, understanding global climate change, improving combustion efficiency, and exploring the evolution of our universe.

"Computation and supercomputing are critical to solving some of our greatest scientific challenges", said Pete Beckman, director of the ALCF. "This upgrade will help address the critical demand for complex modeling and simulation capabilities, which are essential to improving our economic prosperity and global competitiveness".

Argonne's current supercomputer, Intrepid, is an IBM Blue Gene/P machine that is capable of more than 500 trillion calculations a second; at 10 PF/s, Mira will be 20 times faster, running programs at 10 quadrillion calculations a second.

Like its predecessor, Mira will be used by researchers who are working on scientific challenges that can be addressed uniquely by the capabilities of high-performance supercomputers. Mira is funded by the office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) within the Department of Energy's Office of Science and computer time is awarded via an open, peer-reviewed, competitive process called the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program.

"High-performance computing has revolutionized how we investigate new materials, understand biological organisms at the sub-cellular or even atomic level and design new, safe and reliable sources of energy", said Beckman. "Working in partnership with IBM and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, we have succeeded in designing a system that will enable new scientific insights while also being power efficient. Our goal is to deploy leading-edge systems for the science community while also operating them in a responsible and environmentally conscious manner".

In addition to being one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, after its construction and installation are complete, Mira will also be one of the greenest high-performance computers. Earlier this year, the ALCF won an Environmental Sustainability (EStar) award for the innovative energy efficient cooling it designed for its current system, and Argonne researchers anticipate that Mira will be significantly more power friendly by using a combination of innovative new chip designs and extremely efficient water cooling.

The ALCF staff members are already beginning to prepare for the 2012 delivery of Mira. Between now and when Mira becomes operational, the ALCF will be conducting an "Early Science Program" designed to engage researchers in fine-tuning their codes and in finding the most effective ways to leverage Mira's power. With more than 750,000 individual computing cores, scientists will have to scale their current computer codes to take full advantage of the incredible power of the new system. The progress that will be made during the Early Science Program will mean that researchers will be able to achieve exciting/breakthrough science and engineering results very soon after Mira is installed. Sixteen projects have been selected from around the world to take part in the Early Science Program, spanning applications that represent a large fraction of the ALCF's current and projected computational workload, including energy inefficiencies in transportation, hydrogen energy systems, advanced engine designs, and catalysts for energy technologies.

ALCF is dedicated to enabling advancements in science and engineering through large-scale computation and builds on Argonne's strengths in high-performance computing. For more information about the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, visit