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Computers Vie For Warp Speed

It's Blue Mountain against Pacific Blue. The battle of supercomputers is just heating up.

The Energy Department announced Tuesday that a supercomputer called Blue Mountain is the fastest computer in the world.

Made by Silicon Graphics Inc., Blue Mountain ran 1.6 trillion calculations per second in a record-breaking run at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

But only two weeks earlier, the department touted Pacific Blue, a computer from IBM, as the fastest in the world. At the time its speed was put at 3.9 trillion calculations per second.

So, which is faster?

"They're both the world's fastest in a certain sense," explained Ernest Moniz, the undersecretary of energy.

Apparently, the test standards and parameters were different when testing the two computers. Simply put, Pacific Blue tested for peak speed under specific conditions, while Blue Mountain tested for sustained speed in more real-world conditions.

Blue Mountain ran one of the computer industry's standard speed tests known as Linpack and produced the speediest performance ever, its owner said. It was the clear winner "in the supercomputer equivalent of the Indianapolis 500," the Energy Department said in a news release.

Will there be a challenge from Pacific Blue?

It seems that Pacific Blue hasn't run the Linpack test. And Blue Mountain hasn't yet run the peak speed test that catapulted Pacific Blue into the winner's circle two weeks ago.

Richard Belluzzo, chief executive officer at Silicon Graphics, says he's satisfied his computer is the fastest.

"There should be no question about the fact that this is the fastest computer in the world," Belluzzo told reporters in a telephone conference call. "We waited until we had it on the floor turning real work and applications."

IBM officials couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday on whether they consider their Pacific Blue to be in second place now.

Both computers are being developed in conjunction with federal weapons programs and are critical in the government's ability to simulate underground nuclear tests in the laboratory.

Pacific Blue is located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.

Written By H. Josef Hebert