Canterbury's 'Blue Fern' ranks in Top 100 supercomputers

Blue Gene will be one of the 25 most powerful supercomputers operating in academia worldwide, says the university

The University of Canterbury has purchased an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, the Blue Gene/L.

The university will be the first research institution in the Southern Hemisphere to have an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, says the university.

Blue Gene/L, which will be installed in July, is optimised for bandwidth, scalability and the ability to handle large amounts of data. Its modular design allows for computing components — or racks — to be added as needed.

The Blue Gene installed at the University of Canterbury will have two racks and will be the most powerful system in New Zealand. It will rank among the Top 100 most powerful supercomputers in the world, based on projections for the TOP500 Supercomputers list to be published in June 2007.

The Blue Gene, which the University has dubbed “Blue Fern”, demonstrates the University’s commitment to being a leading research institution, says vice-chancellor professor Roy Sharp.

“Its significant computing power will be available to researchers around New Zealand and will enable research never before possible in this country,” he says.

“For example, researchers at the University of Canterbury and the Christchurch School of Medicine will be able to address a number of crucial clinical questions about stroke and diabetes, conditions that affect a large number of New Zealanders,” he adds.

“For the first time, they will be able to model blood flow and complex chemical reactions in the entire human brain, and mimic the interactions of the millions of nephrons that make up the human kidney, enabling insights not previously possible in New Zealand.”

Until now, this research has had to focus on individual parts of the brain, or on single nephrons in the kidney, due to limitations in New Zealand’s computational capabilities.

IBM New Zealand managing director Katrina Troughton says IBM’s relationship with the University of Canterbury was the key factor in its decision to work together to install a Blue Gene in New Zealand.

Blue Gene was specifically designed to deliver superior performance per kilowatt of power consumed, and per square meter of floor space occupied. According to, Blue Gene is the world’s most energy-efficient supercomputer.

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Tags technologyuniversity of canterbury blue gene roy sharp katrina troughton

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