Passing the Torch from Intrepid to Mira


Rapid improvements in computer speed and power leave even the world's most powerful supercomputers with a surprisingly brief career arc. Just six years ago, Argonne's 557-teraflops Intrepid Blue Gene/P was ranked the third-fastest computer in the world, powering research on climate, batteries, supernovae, and Parkinson's disease. But with the installation of Mira, a Blue Gene/Q machine more than 20 times faster than its ancestor, Intrepid's busy lifetime came to an end on December 31, 2013. 

This week, the Argonne website posted a stirring elegy for the decommissioned Intrepid that details the science it enabled over its five-year run. 

“Intrepid was a transformative system that consistently demonstrated how supercomputers are changing the way we solve scientific and engineering problems,” said Mike Papka, director of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility and a CI senior fellow. “As the ALCF’s first production machine, it helped blaze new trails for computational research in several disciplines, opening the door to many of the projects that are currently running on Mira.”

The article describes research performed on Intrepid by CI senior fellows Alexei Khokhlov and Paul Fischer, who used the supercomputer to study hydrogen fuel systems and nuclear reactor hydrodynamics. Both researchers have built upon that work to run even larger and more complex simulations on Mira.

“These simulations are giving us an opportunity to study phenomena not observable in experiments,” Khokhlov said. “Without Intrepid and Mira, this research would not exist.”

“Industry started to realize that they can accelerate research and development by doing things with high-performance computing that would be extremely expensive through experiment,” Fischer said. “It’s starting to become a game changer.”

Read the rest of the article on the Argonne website.

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