RealTime IT News

IBM Unleashes Ultrafast Supercomputer

Addressing the rolling blackouts in California that have inconvenienced millions of people, IBM Thursday unveiled a powerful unclassified supercomputer to look into how the Sunshine State's power grid system works.

Big Blue announced the machine, which is capable of 3.8 trillion calculations per second, at the Supercomputing 2001 Conference in Heidelberg, Germany. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) in California will use the machine to conduct experiments and complex research products to gain a better understanding of the state's electrical supply system.

In addressing another major energy concern, IBM said the supercomputer will also simulate gasoline combustion in the hope of making motor vehicles that devour less gasoline and vent fewer pollutants, attributes that could save considerable amounts of money and the environment. While 3.8 trillion calculations per second is fast, it doesn't hold a candle to Big Blue's ASCI White, a defense supercomputer that resides at Lawrence Livermore National Lab whose performance capability was boosted to 7.2 trillion processes per second.

Also looming large at the supercomputing conference was the release of the top 500 list of supercomputers. IBM is first with 201 systems on the list; No. 2 vendor, Sun Microsystems Inc. has 81 systems on the list. The report also noted that of the 500 that made the cut, 236 are used for business applications.

IBM does both; in addition to designing computers to work on environmental and medical problems, IBM's supercomputers are also used in business, including the most powerful Linux-based supercomputers featuring 1024 processor systems at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

"IBM has extended its supercomputing leadership by designing systems that are equally at home running huge Websites as they are solving complex scientific problems," said Surjit Chana, IBM vice president, high performance computing.

Big Blue's supercomputing star ascended in 1997 when its famous Deep Blue supercomputer defeated chess legend Garry Kasparov.