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French computers maintain British atomic weapons

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Bull is to provide the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) with a third large-scale supercomputer system. 

This system is one of the latest in the range of bullx supercomputers launched by Bull last year. Having now passed acceptance testing it is the most powerful supercomputer used by AWE.  Named ‘Blackthorn’, this supercomputer will work alongside two other large scale bullx supercomputers, named ‘Willow’, supplied to AWE earlier this year. 

Blackthorn is one of the first supercomputers in the world to use the latest 6 core Xeon ‘Westmere’ chip from Intel and comprises 2160 (6 core) processors in 1080 blades with 750TB of storage. The system can deliver a peak performance of 145 TeraFlops (trillions of calculations per second). It is believed to be one of the most powerful supercomputers in the UK and will be used as part of AWE’s ongoing work to maintain the United Kingdom’s warheads for the country’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, as well as support its position as a centre of excellence for science and technology research. 

Ken Atkinson, AWE’s HPC Strategy Manager, explained that the decision to purchase the Blackthorn supercomputer was taken due to a number of contributing factors. 'As part of a competitive bid, Bull was able to demonstrate the superior ultra high-performance of the machine.  We also took account of Bull’s reputation within this market and the fact that other customers had expressed their complete satisfaction with its supercomputers.'