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RealTime IT News

GM's New Computers Called Auto Industry's Fastest

General Motors is linking up what's expected to be the fastest supercomputer in the auto industry after it purchased more high-performance pSeries 690 servers from IBM .

The servers, 32-way 1.3 GHz p690s with 2 GB memory per CPU, would rank GM as the fastest supercomputer system in the auto industry once the system is linked up, the companies said, as well as among the top ten supercomputer systems in the world.

The servers possess a combined processing power of about 2.3 teraflops and will be capable of about four trillion calculations per second, IBM said.

With p690 systems already in GM's research division, combined with the latest purchase for its manufacturing facility in Michigan and other sites in Europe, GM will have nearly two dozen eSeries servers in place once all the orders are tallied. The additions boost GM's computing capacity fourfold and follow similar pSeries purchases it made for its Opel division in Germany and its SAAB unit in Sweden, an IBM spokeswoman said.

GM is expected to use the p690 systems to help speed the development and design of new cars with reduced noise and vibrations, and conduct sophisticated crash, the companies said. The Unix systems will also help build development scenarios that were not possible on existing computing systems, said Kirk Gutmann, a product information officer for General Motors. "Designing our next generation automobiles on IBM p690 helps us improve decision-making, speed cycle times, and ultimately, stay ahead of the competition," he said in a statement.

Other auto makers using similar p690 systems include Audi, Volvo, Toyota, DCX, and Honda.

No financial details were released on the sale, which industry observers said would boost IBM's standing in the twice-yearly Top500 List, the supercomputer list produced by Germany's University of Manheim and the University of Tennessee.

Last June when it was released, the list showed HP with the largest share of the top 500 supercomputer sales, largely the result of HP's merger with Compaq.

However, the ranking also said IBM had the biggest share of processing power at 33.3 percent of the market, ahead of HP (22.2 percent) and NEC (19 percent) and that five of the top 10 systems ranked were from IBM.

Other big users of IBM's sServer p690 line are the U.S. Department of Defense, Audi and a German research center.

The DoD is using an IBM supercomputer dubbed Blue Ocean, which is being used in Naval Oceanographic Office (Navoceano) research into vaccines for infectious diseases. At the time, IBM said the DoD supercomputer, with the ability to process more than 6 trillion calculations per second, was the fastest in the department.

Navoceano's six teraflop system uses 37 p690 servers, 1,184 IBM Power4 microprocessors, 1.5 terabytes of memory, and about 20 terabytes of data storage.

Despite a deep slump in the technology industry, IBM has been seeing strong demand for its supercomputers in the auto industry, especially with GM's latest order, along with product lifecycle management software and telematics systems.

"IBM pSeries systems are uniquely designed to provide the scalability and performance required by General Motors' technical applications to improve design quality and reduce the time it takes to get their world-class automobiles to market," said Jan Beauchamp, General Manager, IBM Automotive Industry.

The p690 is based on IBM's POWER4 microprocessor, a system on a chip that contains two one-gigahertz-plus processors, a high-bandwidth system switch, a large memory cache and I/O, IBM said.

Brian Morrissey contributed to this report