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UT Supercomputer Kraken Officially Up and Running

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KNOXVILLE — It’s official: the world’s fastest university-managed supercomputer is now up and running in East Tennessee.

Kraken, the University of Tennessee’s supercomputer, has passed its early testing and has officially been accepted to begin its designated scientific mission. The machine is expected to address some of humanity’s biggest problems from understanding the changing climate to helping design more effective medicines.

The formal acceptance of the machine follows a series of rigorous tests designed to gauge its abilities and to ensure it can withstand the coming months of data-intensive simulations. Kraken, named after a mythological sea monster, was put through its paces on a series of tests that are designed to use the machine’s full computing power.

The development of unparalleled supercomputing ability in East Tennessee is the result of a broad spectrum of support.

“Establishment of the supercomputer began in 1991 with the formation of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, a partnership between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said UT Executive Vice President David Millhorn.

“The partnership took a step forward earlier this decade with state funding for a new building to house the institute on ORNL’s campus, and it took a giant leap forward last year in winning the NSF grant.”

That institute, now the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS) is home to the Cray XT5 system, funded by a $65 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the University of Tennessee. NICS is headed by Thomas Zacharia, vice president for science and technology at the University of Tennessee and associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences at ORNL.

“Kraken will be a premiere simulation science tool for years to come, greatly enhancing both our knowledge of the world and our ability to translate that knowledge for human benefit,” Zacharia said.

Kraken was recently upgraded to a speed of 607 teraflops. The machine officially entered full production mode on Feb. 2. The machine’s next scheduled upgrade is in late 2009, and in the meantime, more than 40 research teams from Tennessee and around the country will use Kraken for research in a vast range of areas.

“With this milestone, the University has officially joined the ranks of the nation’s supercomputing elite,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “It is a testament to the quality of our research enterprise and the power of the unique scientific partnerships we help lead.”

Jeremy Smith, a UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair and professor of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology at UT Knoxville, will use Kraken to learn more about how to best break down plants to access cellulose for conversion to biofuels. The research will guide those that are engineering proteins to speed up this natural process of producing energy.

Other research using Kraken includes a study by Brown University scientists on blood flow in aneurysms and a project by University of California researchers to create the largest-ever simulation of an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault.

“The presence of a nation-leading supercomputing service center draws positive attention and enhanced exposure of the caliber of science and engineering being conducted by UT Knoxville faculty in all areas,” said Brad Fenwick, UT Knoxville vice chancellor for research and engagement.

As the main computational resource for NICS, the new system is linked to the NSF-supported TeraGrid, a network of supercomputers across the country that is the world’s largest computational platform for open scientific research.

“We are grateful for the foresight and leadership of Gov. Phil Bredesen and members of the General Assembly in choosing to invest in Tennessee’s future,” Millhorn said. “We look forward to continued partnership with them in expanding research and creating jobs of the future.”

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Category: Announcements