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RealTime IT News

IBM Supercomputers Tabbed by Agencies

IBM Corp., which attracts a variety of major organizations for its souped up computer systems, said the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) agreed to help it expand its "Blue Gene" research project. Big Blue has also been picked by the The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to help it stay on top of climate changes.

The announcements were made Friday at the Supercomputing 2001 show in Denver, Colorado.

Trumpeting an expansion of Blue Gene, IBM and NNSA's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will co-design Blue Gene/L, which will be at least 15 times faster and more power efficient, while sucking up 50 times less space per computation than other computers of its ilk.

Blue Gene/L is expected to operate at about 200 teraflops (200 trillion operations per second) and will be a part of IBM's research in "autonomic computing", an initiative to design computer systems that are self-managing, which IBM earlier introduced with eLiza.

Slated to be finished by 2005, Blue Gene/L is being programmed to simulate key physical phenomena, such as aging of materials, fires and explosions that require computational capability greater than current machines offer.

Big Blue announced more work on the subject of natural disasters and phenomena at Supercomputing 2001; it moved forward with a new powerful machine called "Blue Sky," which it hopes will be up and running by September 2002. Powered by IBM's SP supercomputer and IBM eServer p690 systems, the machine will be capable of running about seven trillion calculations per second, coupled with 31.5 trillion bytes of IBM SSA disk storage.

NCAR is banking on Blue Sky vastly improving its current climate modeling capabilities, which it uses to predict elements that impact such crucial factors as agricultural output, specifically to help scientists understand the forces that impact the length of growing seasons for agricultural crops, and upcoming winter seasons. We're talking all kinds of weather here, including droughts, short- and long-range weather prediction and warnings, wildland fires, turbulence, atmospheric chemistry and space weather.

"The addition of Blue Sky to NCAR's computing center is the single biggest increment in raw computing power in NCAR history," said Timothy Killeen, NCAR director. "It will provide U.S. scientists with speed, efficiency, and data storage space they need to stay at the forefront of climate, weather, and many other essential areas of research."

But the emergence of this ultra-fast machine will hardly happen overnight. Blue Sky will be completed in two phases, the first of which will begin this year. Called "Black Forest," the first phase will include IBM SP supercomputer technology and is expected to more than double NCAR's current processing capacity to two trillion calculations per second.

With phase two scheduled for next fall, Black Forest will become Blue Sky once eServer p690 UNIX servers are added, making it possible for the machine to peak at seven trillion calculations per second. As NCAR's main sponsor, The National Science Foundation purchased the new system for an undisclosed sum.

IBM's announcement comes at an interesting time in climatology, as Hurricane Michelle is currently ripping through Havana, Cuba at speeds of up to 135 miles-per-hour. Though there have only been a handful of casualties thus far, the force of nature has claimed 45,000 homes and about 780 government businesses and industries, which were damaged or destroyed in the storm, along with at least 500 schools, 50 child-care centers and 180 medical facilities in that country.

A leader in supercomputing systems, IBM developed the most powerful supercomputer, ASCI White, which processes 7.2 trillion calculations-per-second. It last made supercomputing waves in June when it unveiled a system to look into how the Sunshine State's power grid system works.