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IBM Delivers Baby Brother For Blue Gene

IBM released a companion to its fastest supercomputer that boasts a top speed of 91.29 teraflops and runs at IBM's own Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., the company said today.

The Watson Blue Gene system (BGW) is comprised of 20 refrigerator-sized racks, less than one-half the size of systems of comparable power and offering three times the performance. The machine is the little brother to Blue Gene/L, which is installed at Lawrence Livermore National Labs and runs at 135.3 teraflops.

Eric Kronstadt, director of Deep Computing systems at IBM Research, said IBM will use the system in a variety of science fields, including life sciences, hydrodynamics, quantum chemistry and molecular dynamics. BGW will also be used to process business applications.

Kronstadt said one of the first applications to be deployed will be Blue Matter, a software framework developed to run protein dynamics simulations important to drug development. Blue Matter is part of the Blue Gene project at IBM Research.

IBM's Center for Business Optimization (CBO) consultancy will use the supercomputer to run mathematical algorithms in areas such as high-precision weather forecasting software, agricultural maintenance scheduling and transportation planning. CBO will also use it to analyze financial markets all over the globe.

The executive said IBM will open up BGW for academic and industrial researchers as part of the Department of Energy's (DoE) Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. The DOE recently expanded the INCITE program to offer access to the Blue Gene system at Argonne National Laboratories.

Blue Gene/L and BGW are works in progress, but the Blue Gene name itself is becoming the rock star of supercomputers if it isn't already. Work on the system goes back some six years, Kronstadt said, when IBM and the DoE's National Nuclear Security Administration agreed to build Blue Gene/L for a number of research tasks.

When it is finished, BlueGene/L will clock in at 360 peak teraflops, courtesy of a 64-rack system with over 130,000 IBM PowerPC processors some time this coming fall.

But Blue Gene is also being applied to brain research. The Armonk, N.Y., company and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have embarked on the Blue Brain Project to run computer-based simulations of the brain's molecules to get a better grip on how it works.

IBM began selling Blue Gene commercially last fall for companies that require advanced computing power for business applications, digital animation and other enterprise tasks.