NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

Berkeley Lab Deploys Next-Gen Supercomputer, Perlmutter, Bolstering U.S. Scientific Research

New Heterogeneous System Will Support Research in Advanced Computing, AI, Data Science & More

May 27, 2021

Perlmutter phase 1 panels in placeThe National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) today formally unveiled the first phase of its next-generation supercomputer, Perlmutter. The new system, named in honor of the Lab’s Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, will greatly increase the high performance computing (HPC) capability for a broad spectrum of unclassified scientific research within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science.

The Perlmutter system will play a key role in advancing scientific research in the U.S. and is front and center in a number of critical technologies, including advanced computing, artificial intelligence, and data science. The system will also be heavily used in studies of the climate and the environment, clean energy technologies, semiconductors and microelectronics, and quantum information science.

As part of a virtual celebration to announce the installation, Dr. Perlmutter himself was on hand to release the first set of official jobs on the new system. Dr. Perlmutter is no stranger to supercomputing, having used NERSC in the research that showed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, for which he shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

“The Perlmutter supercomputer will help inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators, allowing the U.S. and DOE to remain a leader in using scientific computation to answer our greatest questions,” said David Turk, DOE Deputy Secretary. “As we continue to enhance and deploy computing platforms like this, our national labs will only be better positioned to develop solutions to today’s toughest problems, from climate change to cybersecurity.”

Deputy Secretary Turk was one of several government dignitaries who, along with representatives from science and industry, participated in the dedication event. The unveiling goes hand in hand with Berkeley Lab’s 90th anniversary celebration,  which highlights the nine decades of discovery science at Berkeley Lab and imagines the next 90 years. The Perlmutter system ushers in a new chapter in NERSC’s high performance computing story that started more than 45 years ago.

“Perlmutter will provide considerably more computing power than our current supercomputer, Cori, and will introduce several key technologies that will be used in exascale systems in the coming years,” said NERSC Director Sudip Dosanjh. “It will enable a larger range of applications than previous NERSC systems and is the first NERSC supercomputer designed from the very beginning to meet the needs of both simulation and data analysis."

Next-Generation HPC Fuels Team Science

Perlmutter features a heterogeneous architecture that will provide four times the computational power currently available at NERSC, making it among the fastest supercomputers in the world for scientific simulation, data analysis, and artificial intelligence applications. To ensure that its users can readily utilize this new technology, NERSC has been working with key application development teams since 2019 to prepare codes for Perlmutter through its NERSC Exascale Science Applications Program.

The system, an HPE Cray EX supercomputer, is being delivered in two phases. Phase 1 features 1,536 GPU-accelerated nodes, each containing four NVIDIA NVlink-connected A100 Tensor Core GPUs and one 3rd Gen AMD EPYC™ processor. Phase 1 also includes a 35 PB all-flash Lustre file system that will provide very high-bandwidth storage. Phase 2, set to arrive later this year, will add 3,072 CPU-only nodes, each with two 3rd Gen AMD EPYC™ processors and 512 GB of memory per node.

“Today’s launch showcases our strong collaboration with Berkeley Lab by being one of the first systems to be powered by the HPE Cray EX supercomputer, which leverages comprehensive, next-generation supercomputing technologies,” said Bill Mannel, vice president and general manager, HPC, at HPE. “We are honored to be part of the Lab’s special day and look forward to seeing Perlmutter play an integral role in augmenting research efforts to support NERSC’s ongoing mission in advancing insights for developing new energy sources.”

“Perlmutter is a world-class supercomputer with AI capabilities that enable the scientific community to push the boundaries of supercomputing research as we enter the exascale AI era,” said Ian Buck, vice president and general manager of accelerated computing at NVIDIA. “NVIDIA GPU-accelerated computing provides incredible performance and flexibility to the wide range of HPC and AI workloads Perlmutter will tackle.”

“There has never been a more exciting time in high performance computing. As an industry, we are driving toward the exascale era with the most powerful supercomputers that researchers, scientists and technology leaders have ever seen,” said Forrest Norrod, senior vice president and general manager, Data Center and Embedded Solutions Group, AMD. “The new Perlmutter system, based on the 3rd Gen AMD EPYC server processors, will leverage our CPU performance to support the next wave of critical discoveries in areas including artificial intelligence, climate and environmental research, quantum science and more. We cannot wait to see the science and discoveries that this system will produce.”

Berkeley Lab and NERSC have a long tradition of supporting team science, which is also a core tenet of Dr. Perlmutter’s legacy as a scientist, teacher, and mentor. During the unveiling event, a panel of scientists who have long used NERSC resources in their research discussed the impact that Perlmutter is expected to have on scientific discovery going forward.

“This is a very exciting time to be combining the power of supercomputer facilities with science, and that is partly because science has developed the ability to collect very large amounts of data and bring them all to bear at one time,” Dr. Perlmutter said. “This new supercomputer is exactly what we need to handle these datasets. As a result, we are expecting to find new discoveries in cosmology, microbiology, genetics, climate change, material sciences, and pretty much any other field you can think of."

NERSC is a DOE Office of Science user facility.


About NERSC and Berkeley Lab
The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that serves as the primary high-performance computing center for scientific research sponsored by the Office of Science. Located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the NERSC Center serves more than 7,000 scientists at national laboratories and universities researching a wide range of problems in combustion, climate modeling, fusion energy, materials science, physics, chemistry, computational biology, and other disciplines. Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy. »Learn more about computing sciences at Berkeley Lab.