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Now Open: Blue Gene On Demand

IBM is offering the Blue Gene supercomputer for remote access at its new Deep Computing Capacity on Demand Center.

The plan is part of its strategy to offer most of its products on-demand.

The new center will allow customers and partners to access the system, which offers 5.7 teraflops of power in a single rack system,through a virtual private network (VPN) over the Internet.

Clients will pay only for the capacity they use, said David Gelardi, vice president, IBM Deep Computing Capacity on Demand. The executive also said the Armonk, N.Y., company will extend the offer to developers to freely test the system, which includes over 2,000 CPUs of PowerPC Blue Gene technology running Linux.

"We're trying to build an ecosystem around Blue Gene so I'm selling capacity by the hour," Gelardi said. "But I'm also making it available free to software developers -- ISVs, research institutions, universities, so that they can bring their code and port it, test it, tune it on Blue Gene."

Gelardi said giving customers the ability to tap large amounts of computing power through the center will not only help them regulate computing resources based on demand, but also head off IT capital expenses and fixed costs of buying gear outright.

Blue Gene consumes less power and, at less than one square meter, takes up less space than traditional supercomputers from rivals like NEC, Cray , SGI , Dell or Sun Microsystems.

The first client engagement for Blue Gene on Demand in the new Rochester Center will be QuantumBio, a company that makes molecular modeling tools that improve the drug discovery process.

The news follows IBM's November 2004 plan to sell Blue Gene as a commercial product. This is a departure from its usual position as a massive system for researching pharmaceutical, weather forecasting and disease issues.

Gelardi said IBM currently has six paid installs for Blue Gene, including one each at Lawrence Livermore and Argonne research labs. That move is part of Big Blue's broader strategy to bring supercomputing to commercial markets for drug discovery and product design, animation, business intelligence and compliance and risk.

"The pipeline for selling Blue Gene is quite healthy," Gelardi said, noting that IBM chose to put the new on-demand center in Rochester because that is where Blue Gene is developed and made.

The new center is Big Blue's fourth such facility, joining institutions in Poughkeepsie, New York, Houston, TX and Montpellier, France. Clients have access to over 5,200 CPUs of Intel, AMD Opteron and IBM Power compute power to run Linux, Microsoft Windows and IBM AIX operating systems.

Just days before IBM began selling Blue Gene, a BlueGene/L supercomputer tailored for nuclear arms research was found to run at a record 70.72 teraflops, making it the fastest computer on the LINPACK benchmark test.