RealTime IT News

IBM Supercomputer Heads to UT

IBM's growth spurt in the market for supercomputers got a boost Friday when the company announced the sale of one of its new p655 Unix servers to the University of Texas at Austin (UT) to help scientists develop environmentally-friendly oil drilling techniques.

One week after a similar deal with the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center, Big Blue said the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) had installed 32 super-dense cluster of IBM eServer p655 servers and one p690 system. When the supercomputer is combined with the current POWER4 systems at UT, it creates "the powerful academic computing system in the state of Texas," IBM boasted.

It said each of the 32 IBM eServer p655 systems contained four IBM POWER4 microprocessors. The p690 eServer boasts 128 gigabytes of memory for conducting simulations and analyses that required a large pool of shared memory.

The high-powered machine now runs 224 total POWER4 processors and more than 500 gigabytes of memory.

The new supercomputer will be used specifically to help develop chemicals to help with oil drilling. When oil is drilled, chemicals are pumped into the earth to make it flow easier to the surface. This is where researchers at UT's TAAC plan to use supercomputing to develop chemicals that are cheaper to produce and cleaner on the environment, an IBM spokesman explained.

The university said the IBM supercomputer will help research work in the modeling of surface and subsurface flows such as oil and gas. UT professors Mary Wheeler and Paul Scoffa are in the midst of developing a Web-based grid computing portal to enable surface and subsurface flow codes and geophysical simulation codes on the IBM supercomputer to talk to each other and collect real-time data from sensors in the field.

Beyond oil drilling, TAAC's supercomputer system will support research in geophysics, astrophysics, space science, chemistry, biology, aerospace engineering, and mechanical engineering.

For IBM, which has adopted the pay-as-you-grow model for its supercomputing sales, the deal adds another big-name client to its efforts to emerge as the superpower of supercomputing.

In 2002, Big Blue trailed Hewlett-Packard in the lucrative market for high-performance systems but, according to research from IDC, IBM's supercomputing business showed growth while HP was slowly losing market share.

In the fourth quarter of 2002, IBM's revenue share of high performance computers was 36.7 percent, an 11.5 point jump from the previous-year's quarter, according to IDC. While IBM showed growth, HP's annual sales of supercomputing products dipped a whopping 25 percent in 2002. Sun Microsystems , Silicon Graphics and Dell are all competing in the market, which is valued at around $7 billion.

IBM supercomputers are also used in life sciences to explore genomic research, in automobile design to make cars safer, and in financial markets to optimize investment strategies.

SGI has also scored a deal for its supercomputing initiatives, announcing the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute (ERI) would use a 108-processor SGI Altix system as a shared supercomputing resource for its researchers.

The supercluster marks the first purchase and delivery of an SGI Altix system worldwide and the first full-scale Linux OS-based parallel processing system in Japan, SGI said. The SGI Altix family of superclusters features the 64-bit Intel Itanium 2 processor and the Linux operating system.

SGI said the earthquake institute would conducts advanced earthquake and volcano studies, including research on ways to minimize earthquake and volcano damage.