RealTime IT News

'Virtual Climate Time Machine' in the Cards for IBM

IBM has been asked to build a system capable of predicting climate changes 300 years into the future.

A team of 12 engineers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) has asked IBM for a supercomputer that will help researchers to gage changes to the Earth's surface, atmosphere and oceans to gain insight into the progression of such concerns as global warming, synthetic pollutants and polar ice shifts.

Referring to it as a "virtual climate time machine," Debra Goldfarb, vice president of products and strategy at IBM, told internetnews.com such information is needed so far in advance because minor modifications are occurring every day to speed the global warming process, which could have disastrous effects on the planet and its inhabitants.

"Humans are emotionally and intellectually unable to combinate that --to see that impact over time," Goldfarb explained. "But we can't dismiss the fundamental reality of what's going on."

Accordingly, discoveries will be shuttled to the National Science Foundation and other national climate modeling efforts.

Dubbed the Earth System Modeling Facility (ESMF), the ESMF supercomputer can calculate 528 gigaflops, or a massive billion floating-point operations per second in yet another coup for IBM's vaunted POWER4+ microprocessor architecture.

The massive computer consists of seven IBM eServer p655 AIX-based systems, each with eight POWER4+ microprocessors, connected together with IBM's clustering technology, and one IBM eServer p690 system, with thirty-two POWER4+ microprocessors.

POWER architecture, geared for 64-bit computing in the enterprise, has been praised by analysts for its ability to scale broadly up and down the processing spectrum.

ESMF requires plenty of storage capacity to house all of the data and the system employs two IBM xSeries 335 servers, running Red Hat Linux and Sistina Global File System (GFS), that house 32 terabytes of RAID5 storage.

Goldfarb said the contract was especially exciting from IBM's perspective because it further validates the company in the supercomputing sphere, in which the Armonk, N.Y., company competes with HP, Sun Microsystems, Cray and SGI.

Moreover, though IBM has inked several contracts to build supercomputers for universities probing projects that require massive amounts of calculations performed at high speeds, she said this contract is unique.

"This is really a breakthrough in performance for this scale," Goldfarb said. "Eight, 10, even five years ago, this scale of complex model simulations wouldn't have been possible in one department."

The ESMF contract is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the University of California.