IBM: The Power of Purple


IBM today is pitching a major performance breakthrough in the way that large
computer networks access and share information.


Called Project Fastball, IBM and its supercomputing partner-in-arms Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) shuttled 102 gigabytes per second of
sustained read and write performance to a single file using the ASC Purple
supercomputer.


This achievement, maintained while more than 1,000 clients drove workloads
to the file system, was the equivalent of downloading 25,500 songs in a
single second. The file system tallied 1.6 petabytes in
size for one of the largest high-performance file systems ever deployed.


The feat broke the so-called “Gigabyte Barrier,” or the inability of large
computer networks to keep processors fed with data.


The breakthrough is expected to propel the creation of high-performance
computing applications, as well as programs in fields such as medicine,
homeland security and entertainment.


For example, it could lead to the development of real-time tsunami warning
devices or medical computing grids that design drugs for individual
patients.


Dave Turek, vice president of IBM’s Deep Computing division, said
supercomputers are increasingly being tuned to handle massive workloads to
crunch data for intense applications.


“We’re seeing this dramatic growth in data that’s placing greater and
greater demands on the ability of scalable file systems to process this data
and feed it into the kinds of microprocessors that are designed today,”
Turek said.


Turek said the breakthrough shows that systems can be designed with a
balance that marries the ways data can be delivered to the systems with
speedy microprocessor power.


He said computer engineers from IBM and LLNL used IBM’s General Parallel
File System software to manage the transfer of information between thousands
of processors and thousands of disk storage devices. IBM is offering access
to General Parallel File System source code to clients.


As for the hardware, the feat included 104 IBM Power-based eServer p575
nodes working with 416 storage controllers.


Running at 63.69 teraflops, the National Nuclear Security
Administration’s (NNSA) ASC Purple is currently No. 3 on the Top500 list of
the world’s most powerful supercomputers. ASC Purple is used to maintain the
nation’s nuclear arsenal without nuclear testing.

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