IBM and Cray have beaten out Sun Microsystems to win sizable U.S. government contracts to design a new-generation supercomputer.On Tuesday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded the two companies four-year contracts to design a supercomputer that is 100 times more powerful than today\u2019s most powerful systems, yet is simpler to program, administer and use. Cray\u2019s contract is valued at US$250 million, and IBM\u2019s is worth $244 million.Each company is expected to have a prototype supercomputer ready by 2010.The contracts were awarded as part of DARPA\u2019s High Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS) program, which is targeted at the national security community, science and industrial sectors.Launched in 2002, the program\u2019s goal is to develop a system capable of performing calculations at the rate of two to four petaflops per second. A petaflop is one quadrillion (one thousand trillion) calculations per second. "Flop" stands for floating-point operations.The fastest supercomputer in operation today, an IBM BlueGene system, operates at 360 teraflops, or 360 trillion calculations per second.Sun Microsystems, which had been funded in earlier rounds of the contract, lost out on the latest round.However, the company still plans to integrate the technology it had been developing into its product lines, a Sun spokeswoman said.Besides developing prototypes of the supercomputers, IBM and Cray are also tasked with building programming tools that speed the time it takes to write applications tenfold compared with what was possible when the HPCS program began.DARPA says the ultimate goal of the project is to create a new generation of economically viable, high-productivity computing systems that can be sold to national security and high-end industrial users. Federal agencies likely to use the supercomputers will include the National Security Agency, the Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Agency. By Robert Mullins, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)Related Links:\n\nU.S. Supercomputer Gets Performance Boost\n\nIBM to Build New DOE Supercomputer\n\nIBM Tops Supercomputer List, Opteron Gains Ground\n\nIBM Translation Software to Be Tested by U.S. Military in IraqCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.