RealTime IT News

IBM's Deep Computing in Deep Blue Sea

Another day, another supercomputer deployment for IBM.

In a contract estimated to be worth in the tens of millions, the Department of Defense has solicited a cluster of eServer p655 machines from Big Blue to use in national defense research projects for the Navy.

The Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) Major Shared Resource Center will use the 368-server cluster in addition to its current infrastructure for so-called "Challenge Projects." Its employees use high-resolution meteorology and oceanography knowledge to develop better military aircraft, ship and vehicle designs and improved missile and projectile designs.

NAVOCEANO, located at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, then supplies oceanographic info to the DoD, conducting ocean surveys and analyzing the data to bolster its tactical performance needs, according to Debra Goldfarb, vice president for strategy and products in IBM's Deep Computing division.

Goldfarb told internetnews.com she envisioned the DoD would use the systems to help battleships and submarines with threat detection and tactical weather forecasting at a time when the world abroad "is extremely complex and volatile."

"It gives really good insight into the mentality behind national security requirements right now," Goldfarb said. "You need the kind of infrastructure that can give you real-time information about observable and non-observable threats in any capacity."

The NAVOCEANO supercomputing cluster will boast triple the computing power of the center's current system, with the largest of the systems expected to run at a peak speed of 20 trillion teraflops, or operations per second. The previous largest system ran at 7.5 teraflops, Goldfarb said.

The speed and power adds up to an average data availability rate of 99.6, making it as close to perfectly reliable as a system of its caliber can come.

Often employed by research institutes and government agencies for wide-scale testing, supercomputing clusters are geared to throw unprecedented power at complex tasks, including weather modeling, and crash test simulation.

The new cluster, which employs nearly 3,000 of the Armonk, N.Y. company's Power4+ processors, comes at a time when IBM is looking to expand the sphere of influence of its Power chip.

Power chips are currently used in anything from Nintendo game consoles to its own enterprise-class servers. IBM will roll out Power5-based servers featuring advanced virtualization capabilities on August 31.

IBM competes against HP, Sun Microsystems, Cray, SGI and Dell in the race to provide supercomputing installations to businesses, research outfits and think tanks.