In this Letter to the Editor (LttE), Los Alamos National Laboratory's Jim Danneskiold responds to a previous LttE which stated that the real news in a Supercomputing Online story posted May 20 on LANL's new Metropolis Center for Modeling & Simulation, is that LANL's ASCI "Q" is “in trouble.”

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Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of three National Nuclear Security Administration laboratories participating in the Advanced Simulation and Computing program, called ASCI. The ASCI program is responsible for developing predictive capability to support the performance, safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing. ASCI is partnering with various industry providers to accelerate development of more powerful computing hardware. ASCI also is investing in the creation of the necessary computational models and software environment. Los Alamos, in partnership with Silicon Graphics Inc., brought the Blue Mountain machine on-line in November 1998. The machine has 6144 processors organized into 48 SMPs (each having 128 shared memory processors) with a peak performance of 3.1 TeraOps. After an initial stabilization period of 8-12 months (similar to experiences on other ASCI machines), the Blue Mountain machine has provided a very stable environment for simulations required for the stockpile stewardship mission. Los Alamos technical staff and management have had on-line access to system reliability and usage reports since November 1998. Frequent, regular reports on system reliability were provided to staff and management, as well as to NNSA. The Blue Mountain platform was used to successfully execute the ASCI 1999 and the ASCI 2000 Level 1 Milestones. The Lawrence Livermore ASCI White (12 TeraOps) platform was used to execute the ASCI 2001 milestone. ASCI White is the next step in the ASCI roadmap and consequently is more capable than its three predecessors: ASCI Red, Blue Pacific and Blue Mountain. ASCI White has faster processors and more memory per processor. For these reasons ASCI White was the most appropriate platform for the ASCI 2001 milestone calculation. However, the Blue Mountain platform has been the major production machine for nuclear weapon simulations at Los Alamos for the past three years and will remain so until the workload moves to the ASCI Q machine in 2002. The next generation ASCI flagship platform, the "Q" machine, is being installed at Los Alamos by Compaq (now Hewlett-Packard). The planned final system (30.72 TeraOps) consists of 3,072 AlphaServer ES45s, with a total of 12,288 EV-68 1.25 GHz CPUs, a total of 33 TeraBytes of Memory, 709 TeraBytes of global disk, and a dual-rail Quadrics interconnect. The Q system is being installed in phases; 768 AlphaServer ES45 nodes using the 1.0 GHz CPUs are currently installed in the Metropolis Center, for a total of ~ 6 TeraOps. Another 256 AlphaServer ES45 nodes will be added to the 768 nodes to complete the 1024 nodes in the Nicholas C. Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation (8 TeraOps) in about a month. The contract for Q was structured so that the majority of the payment is contingent on the Q system meeting technical performance milestones, as contrasted with a simple hardware purchase. The additional system capability is contained within three options. Option 1 is for upgrading the processors to 1.25 GHz to bring Q up to 10 TeraOps. Options 2 and 3 each include delivery of separate 10 TeraOps systems, with each being 1024 AlphaServer ES45 nodes using the 1.25 GHz CPUs. This will bring up the Q total to 30.72 TeraOps. If all goes according to plan, the 30.72 Q system will be installed and tested by the end of the calendar year 2002. Contrary to the assertions of the anonymous letter writer, the Q machine is definitely not a "bust." The Department of Energy Inspector General conducted an audit of supercomputing at Los Alamos in December 2001. There were no findings or recommendations in the audit. Los Alamos National Laboratory is proud to be a part of the ASCI program and contribute to the national defense. Our accomplishments and contributions to the program are monitored and documented as part of our University of California operating contract. Jim Danneskiold Los Alamos National Laboratory Public Affairs Office