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NNSA, Livermore celebrate IBM relationship

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and NNSA’s nearly two decade partnership with IBM, which has produced an unparalleled record of top-ranked supercomputers and award winning computational science, was celebrated recently at LLNL.

Calling computing the “intellectual electricity” of the laboratory, Parney Albright, LLNL's Laboratory Director, said that “we embed computation into the DNA of LLNL organizations” and as a result “it’s hard to find a project at the Lab that doesn’t involve computing.” High performance computing (HPC) will remain critical to the Lab’s ability to fulfill its stockpile stewardship mission well into the future, he said.

The strength of the relationship allowed the development of Deep Computing Solutions, a partnership within LLNL’s High Performance Computing Innovation Center (HPCIC), which aims to “make Vulcan and the Laboratory’s HPC ecosystem available to U.S. industry to advance the nation’s competitiveness,” Albright said.

Dimitri Kusnezov, NNSA's Chief Scientist and director of the Office of Science and Policy,, said the strength of the relationship has produced “ a remarkable line of success: novel insight into national security issues, novel product lines, breaking the speed of computing over and over; lasting marks in this enterprise.” Of the 34 cycles of worldwide top supercomputer rankings from 1996 through 2012, NNSA has been recognized 21 times for #1 systems, 14 of which with IBM and 11 with IBM and LLNL.

“There are many complex faces of this partnership,” Kusnezov said. “It can be very ugly at times. At other times there is glory to be celebrated. We recognize the differences in our needs,” he said. “It is the communication between all of us that has made this work. If we did not build in the flexibility rooted in trust into our partnership, we would fail.”

The impact of the partnership on NNSA’s national security missions has demonstrated simulation as the increasingly cost-effective means to examine the array of national security problems we face, and help frame the context for next generation exascale systems, Kusnezov said.

John Kelly III, director of IBM Research, reminded the audience that the IBM relationship went back to 1954 with the purchase of IBM 701 machines. The HPC advancements under the ASCI program, which began in the mid-1990s have contributed to IBM’s commercial success, Kelly said. “In the end we’re a business. The technologies we’ve developed have broader application and have made it into our commercial systems.”

The development of the BlueGene line of supercomputers “put us on an entirely different trajectory,” he said. “It took risk. Failure was not an option. What galvanized us was your mission and your success in that mission. It’s what inspires us moving forward.”