IBM revs Blue Gene/L supercomputer

SAN FRANCISCO (11/14/2003) - IBM Corp. this week offered a preview of its upcoming Blue Gene/L supercomputer, a working prototype the size of a 30-inch television but capable of supporting 512 nodes.

Taking up just a half-rack of space, the unit has a peak performance of 2 teraflops and has a sustained performance of 1.4 teraflops. The prototype requires no more power than what is available in a typical home, according to an IBM spokesman.

The full-blown version of Blue Gene/L, scheduled to be delivered to the Lawrence Livermore Labs in 2005, will support 65,000 nodes in a 64-rack configuration and reportedly will have a peak performance of 360 teraflops.

In its rankings to be released next week, the Top 500 Supercomputer Project, which uses industry-standard benchmarks, will rank the new prototype as the 73rd most powerful supercomputer in the world. The full-blown version of the system will be about six times faster than today's most powerful system but be 10 times smaller than today's systems.

"We see Blue Gene's entry onto the Top500 list as a fracture in the history of supercomputing. We think it will revolutionize the way supercomputers and servers are built and broaden the kinds of applications we can run on them," said William Pulleyblank, director of exploratory server systems, at IBM Research.

IBM Researchers the last couple of years have been predicting the technology used in its Blue Gene series will change the face of supercomputing through its ability to process vast amounts of data significantly faster than today's systems, while requiring a fraction of the power and floor space.

For instance, the systems' compute power will be used to model the folding of human proteins. Learning more about how proteins fold can give medical researchers insights into understanding diseases as well as their potential cures. It can also be used to help meteorologists better predict storms far in advance and help petroleum companies find oil deep below the earth's surface.

Blue Gene/L core technology, which will be adaptable to multiple environments including Linux, can deliver enough computing power to effectively drive down the costs of supercomputing to where it will become an everyday technical resource. Researchers, for instance, will be able to tackle pressing problems pervasive throughout society including the development of new drugs to fight disease, exploration of the universe, or looking at what happens to nuclear weapons over time.

"We're very excited about the prospects of Blue Gene, because its scale is unprecedented," said Mark Seager, principal investigator for ASCI platforms at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "The scale of the science that we will be able to do is phenomenal," he said.

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