Cray is a name synonymous with supercomputers, and it is currently building a system which it claims could rival the world's top supercomputer, NEC's Earth Simulator.

The supercomputer, codenamed Red Storm, will have a theoretical peak performance of 40 trillion calculations per second, or 40 teraflops.

This is the same speed as the Earth Simulator, although this is based on just over 5,000 CPUs, while Red Storm is expected to use over 10,000 of AMD's forthcoming 64bit, Opteron processors.

It is the first supercomputer to be based on the new high-end processor from AMD, and Marty Seyer, AMD's vice president of server business, believes: "This win validates the importance of 64bit computing for scientific research, and demonstrates AMD's credibility in the high-performance computing market."

Red Storm is to be used for nuclear weapon engineering simulations by the US Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories and, according to AMD, will be at least seven times more powerful than its current Asci Red system, which is based on Intel processors.

The new supercomputer is slated to be deployed in 2004, and could see the US regain the top slot in the supercomputer league — a position it lost this year to Japanese company NEC.

While this is a significant win for AMD, Intel has not been resting on its laurels and in a separate announcement today it outlined how its processors are helping to push forward grid computing at two leading UK universities.

Imperial College London and the University of Southampton have both implemented clusters of Intel processors to support departments and research communities that need high-speed, high-performance computing resources, Intel said.

The clusters will be used to aid data intensive study in areas such as high-energy physics, bioinformatics and fluid dynamics, they will also be used to help research and develop future grid computing infrastructures.

The University of Southampton has deployed 405 Intel processors, including Pentium III, Xeon and Itanium models, while Imperial College has developed a cluster of 64 2GHz Xeon processors supported by a further 34 Xeon processors.

The resources make up part of the UK e-science grid and as such support various projects including the Genie, which is targeted at climate modelling; Oscar-G, which is looking into creating virtual organisations based on grid computing; and Geodise, a design search system for engineering.