Big Blue has brought the title of the world's fastest supercomputer back to the United States for the first time in three years.
IBM Corp.'s still-incomplete Blue Gene/L system was officially named the fastest in the world Monday by the Top500 project, an independent group of university computer scientists.
The system was clocked at 70.72 trillion calculations per second, almost double the performance of the reigning leader -- Japan's Earth Simulator, which can sustain 35.86 trillion calculations a second.
Blue Gene/L will be installed next year at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., where it will be used to study the nation's nuclear stockpile and perform other research. It's now just a quarter of its planned size.
"IBM has dominated the top of supercomputing for a number of years; having reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the world is not that significant," said Dave Turek, IBM's vice president of deep computing. Instead, he pointed to the computer's relatively low energy use and small size.
Blue Gene/L will consume about $1 million a year in electricity. If the Earth Simulator were as powerful, it would consume about $60 million a year in electricity, Turek said.
The IBM system also will take up just 2,500 square feet, compared with 34,000 square feet for Earth Simulator.
Another U.S. supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center grabbed the No. 2 spot, turning 51.87 trillion calculations a second.
Tokyo-based NEC Corp., which made the Japanese supercomputer, didn't immediately comment. The system, first ranked No. 1 in 2002, is now No. 3.
Though the United States previously had nine of the 10 fastest computers in the world, the Japanese supercomputer on the top of the list has been a sore spot for U.S. officials, federal research labs and universities.
Monday's announcement ends a race between IBM and the Department of Energy and system builder Silicon Graphics Inc., chipmaker Intel Corp. and NASA for bragging rights.
In September, IBM announced that a prototype of the Blue Gene/L in Rochester, Minn., had sustained speeds of 36 trillion calculations per second. A month later, Project Columbia's builders announced that the $50-million computer had achieved 42.7 trillion calculations per second.