Cray to build El Capitan supercomputer for nuclear security apps

The US still uses a 1970s-era IBM Series/1 mainframe computer with 8-inch floppy drives to control its nuclear forces!

Cray has been awarded a $600 million contract to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the US Department of Energy and the NNSA announced Tuesday. Named El Capitan, the supercomputer will be among the fastest known in the world and will help manage the US’ nuclear stockpile. It’s expected to go into production by late 2023.

Supercomputers are used for power-intensive programs like quantum physics, examining whether old nuclear weapons could still explode, forecasting global climate change effects, designing engines and aircraft and reconstructing the history of the universe. The two highest-powered supercomputers are still Summit and Sierra, owned by IBM in the US, according to a June report from Top500, which twice a year ranks the highest-performing computer systems in the world.

Sierra tops out at 125 petaflops, while El Capitan could run roughly 10 times faster, according to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It has a peak performance of more than 1.5 exaflops, or 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, and will be used for national nuclear security applications at more than 50 times the speed of LLNL’s Sequoia system.

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Read more: cnet