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We have extended the Falkon lightweight task execution framework to make loosely coupled programming on petascale systems a practical and useful programming model. This work studies and measures the performance factors involved in applying this approach to enable the use of petascale systems by a broader user community, and with greater ease. Our work enables the execution of highly parallel computations composed of loosely coupled serial jobs with no modifications to the respective applications. This approach allows a new-and potentially far larger-class of applications to leverage petascale systems, such as the IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputer. We present the challenges of I/O performance encountered in making this model practical, and show results using both microbenchmarks and real applications from two domains: economic energy modeling and molecular dynamics. Our benchmarks show that we can scale up to 160 K processor-cores with high efficiency, and can achieve sustained execution rates of thousands of tasks per second.