March 02, 2009
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
"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
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
"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."
For more information, visit the NICS Web site at