IBM Supercomputer Heads to UT


IBM’s growth spurt in the market for supercomputers got a
boost Friday when the company announced the sale of one of its new p655 Unix
servers to the University of Texas at Austin (UT) to help scientists develop
environmentally-friendly oil drilling techniques.

One week after a similar deal with the Arctic Region Supercomputing
Center, Big Blue said the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) had
installed 32 super-dense cluster of IBM eServer p655 servers and one p690
system. When the supercomputer is combined with the current POWER4 systems
at UT, it creates “the powerful academic computing system in the state of
Texas,” IBM boasted.

It said each of the 32 IBM eServer p655 systems contained four IBM POWER4
microprocessors. The p690 eServer boasts 128 gigabytes of memory for
conducting simulations and analyses that required a large pool of shared
memory.

The high-powered machine now runs 224 total POWER4 processors and more
than 500 gigabytes of memory.

The new supercomputer will be used specifically to help develop chemicals
to help with oil drilling. When oil is drilled, chemicals are pumped into
the earth to make it flow easier to the surface. This is where researchers
at UT’s TAAC plan to use supercomputing to develop chemicals that are
cheaper to produce and cleaner on the environment, an IBM spokesman
explained.

The university said the IBM supercomputer will help research work in the
modeling of surface and subsurface flows such as oil and gas. UT professors
Mary Wheeler and Paul Scoffa are in the midst of developing a Web-based grid
computing portal to enable surface and subsurface flow codes and geophysical
simulation codes on the IBM supercomputer to talk to each other and collect
real-time data from sensors in the field.

Beyond oil drilling, TAAC’s supercomputer system will support research in
geophysics, astrophysics, space science, chemistry, biology, aerospace
engineering, and mechanical engineering.

For IBM, which has adopted the pay-as-you-grow
model for its supercomputing sales, the deal adds another big-name
client to its efforts to emerge as the superpower of supercomputing.

In 2002, Big Blue trailed Hewlett-Packard in the
lucrative market for high-performance systems but, according to research
from IDC, IBM’s supercomputing business showed growth while HP was slowly
losing market share.

In the fourth quarter of 2002, IBM’s revenue share of high performance
computers was 36.7 percent, an 11.5 point jump from the previous-year’s
quarter, according to IDC. While IBM showed growth, HP’s annual sales of
supercomputing products dipped a whopping 25 percent in 2002. Sun
Microsystems , Silicon Graphics and Dell
are all competing in the market, which is valued at
around $7 billion.

IBM supercomputers are also used in life sciences to explore genomic
research, in automobile design to make cars safer, and in financial markets
to optimize investment strategies.

SGI has also scored a deal for its supercomputing initiatives, announcing
the University of Tokyo’s
Earthquake Research Institute (ERI) would use a 108-processor SGI Altix
system as a shared supercomputing resource for its researchers.

The supercluster marks the first purchase and delivery of an SGI Altix
system worldwide and the first full-scale Linux OS-based parallel processing
system in Japan, SGI said. The SGI Altix family of superclusters features
the 64-bit Intel Itanium 2 processor and the Linux operating system.

SGI said the earthquake institute would conducts advanced earthquake and
volcano studies, including research on ways to minimize earthquake and
volcano damage.

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