LANL: First Phase Of New Supercomputer Installed

One of Tycho’s 8,000-pound cabinets is moved into position during the initial installation. Tycho is the stepping-stone machine to Crossroads, which will become Los Alamos National Laboratory’s primary supercomputer. Photo Courtesy LANL


The critical first phase of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s newest supercomputer, Crossroads, has been successfully installed. Called Tycho, this machine is a stepping-stone to Crossroads, which will replace Trinity as the Laboratory’s primary supercomputer in the coming year and will support next-generation weapons simulations.

“We’re excited to be entering this new phase of supercomputing at the Lab,” said Los Alamos’ HPC Platforms Program Director Jim Lujan. “Early benchmarks indicate a four-times increase in speed over Trinity. All of the new efficiencies that are part of Tycho, and ultimately Crossroads, come together to reduce that crucial time to insight. Improving efficiencies in many areas for modeling and simulation is what this project is all about.”

A Hewlett Packard Enterprise machine, based on the HPE Cray EX supercomputer, Crossroads will support critical maintenance and modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, as well as other nuclear security missions.

Amanda Bonnie, project manager for Crossroads, has been with Tycho from when it was just a configuration diagram, all the way to rolling the 8,000-pound cabinets off trucks and seeing them through their installation on Los Alamos’ Strategic Computing Complex floor, which is approximately the size of a football field. 

 “I think my favorite part of the entire process is the delivery and install week,” said Bonnie. “Getting to be there and see it become something before your eyes is magical.”

Tycho brings to bear emerging technologies including the first large-scale deployment of Intel’s new Sapphire Rapids processor. Earlier this year, HPC tests helped Intel engineers configure the chip to best serve Laboratory-specific application performance.

Adding to overall efficiency, Solid State Drives will make up the entirety of Tycho’s file system — a first for Los Alamos supercomputers. Additionally, warm water direct liquid cooling will mean significant energy savings over more traditional approaches.

Following in Trinity’s footsteps, Crossroads gets its name from the second series of nuclear weapons tests conducted at Bikini Atoll in 1946.

Tycho, however, has a different origin. Key Crossroads components Tycho, Rocinante and Razorback are all named for spacecraft from The Expanse — a sci-fi TV series based on novels written by James S.A. Corey (pen name of authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, both of whom have New Mexico ties). 

In coming months, the Crossroads team will work to stabilize Tycho, calibrating the system’s 2,600 Sapphire Rapids nodes for maximum efficiency. Software will be installed and functionality testing will take place — all in time to ensure Tycho’s early use in the classified environment by the end of the year and full production status in March 2023.

This Advanced Technology System is funded by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administrations’ Advanced Simulation and Computing program.