July 26, 2006

Michael Dell to visit Sandia Labs this Friday

Thunderbird computer Sandia manager John Zepper inspects components of Sandia’s Thunderbird supercomputer, currently the sixth-fastest in the world. (Photo by Randy Montoya)
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Michael Dell, chairman of Dell Corporation and the youngest CEO of a company listed on the Fortune 500, will visit Sandia National Laboratories at 4 p.m. Friday, July 28, to tour Sandia’s Dell Thunderbird supercomputer — the sixth fastest in the world — and sign a commemorative plaque with Laboratories Director Tom Hunter.

The signing will take place in Sandia’s new Visualization facility. Hunter and Dell will speak briefly on what supercomputing will mean to U.S. industrial competitiveness and national security, in terms of transforming engineering and science. A video will show the Thunderbird cluster in action. A short time will be made available for questions.

Media are invited to attend. DVDs of computer simulations performed on Thunderbird will be available, as will still shots. Please call Iris Aboytes before 11 a.m. Thursday at 844-2282 to reserve a place. Reporters will meet with Sandia media staff at 3:30 p.m. at the parking lot at Louisiana and Gibson to be escorted onto the base.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

The 8,960-processor Thunderbird cluster — designed jointly by Sandia and Dell — is interesting because it is the least expensive general-purpose supercomputer of its scale in existence. One reason for this is that Sandia and Dell were willing to gamble on a new “interconnect” technology that communicates between computer nodes. The interconnect, called Infiniband, had never before been deployed in a computing system of this scale or complexity. The ready availability of this now-proven component as an “off-the-shelf” commercial product may lead to an increase in the number of supercomputers worldwide by improving speed while lowering prices.

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Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Neal Singer,, (505) 845-7078