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Blue Waters Project

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Research Areas:
NSF Award:

Leadership Class Scientific and Engineering Computing: Breaking Through the Limits  (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

Blue Waters is expected to be the most powerful supercomputer in the world for open scientific research when it comes online in 2011. It will be the first system of its kind to sustain one petaflop performance on a range of science and engineering applications. The project also includes intense collaboration with dozens of teams in the development of science and engineering applications, system software, interactions with business and industry, and educational programs. This comprehensive approach will ensure that scientists and engineers across the country will be able to use Blue Waters to its fullest potential.

Scientists will create breakthroughs in nearly all fields of science using Blue Waters. They will predict the behavior of complex biological systems, understand how the cosmos evolved after the Big Bang, design new materials at the atomic level, predict the behavior of hurricanes and tornadoes, and simulate complex engineered systems like the power distribution system and airplanes and automobiles.

Blue Waters is a joint effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, its National Center for Supercomputing Applications, IBM, and the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation. It is supported by the National Science Foundation and the University of Illinois.

Blue Waters will be based on POWER7 hardware from IBM—makers of more than one-third of the world's 500 fastest computers and almost all of the 40 most "green" supercomputers. It will be the first of a powerful new system design from IBM. The design includes extensive research and development in new chip technology, interconnect technology, operating systems, compiler, and programming environments.

Substantial investments will be made by the Blue Waters partnership to enhance the scalability and performance of existing science and engineering applications and to develop new applications that take full advantage of the extraordinary capabilities that Blue Waters will provide. The partnership is developing an enhanced version of IBM's high-performance computing environment to ensure that applications achieve high sustained performance. The enhanced environment will increase the productivity of application developers, system administrators, and researchers by providing an integrated toolset to use Blue Waters and analyze and control its behavior.

Education & Outreach

The Blue Waters project also includes a far-reaching educational and workforce development program. It will impact students from K-12 through postgraduate education, reaching out to geographical areas and communities that have been historically underrepresented in supercomputing. At the undergraduate level, the program will educate the next generation of graduate students, K-12 teachers, future technical staff, and the informed public. At the graduate and postgraduate levels, the program will educate and train the next generation of researchers.

An expanded industrial partner program is an integral part of the Blue Waters project. Members of the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation will work with their business and industry partners to introduce them to the world of petascale computing, giving industrial outreach a truly national scale.

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