IBM’s Supercomputers Still Top the Field

IBM announced Thursday it sold a group of powerful
supercomputers, as Big Blue boasted it still dominates the high-performance
computer field.

IBM said the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Audi, and a German research
center had chosen to use supercomputers based on IBM’s eServer p690, which
it unveiled in October 2001. The DoD supercomputer will be one of the
largest in the world, IBM said.

The announcements were timed to coincide with the release of the Top500 List
of the world’s largest high-performance computers. The semiannual list, a
joint project of Germany’s University of Manheim and the University of
Tennessee, was presented at the International Supercomputer Conference in
Heidelberg, Germany. The list shows that HP, thanks to the Compaq merger, has
pulled ahead of IBM with the largest share of the top 500.

However, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM continues to enjoy a wide lead in processing
power, with a 33.3 percent share, ahead of runners up HP (22.2 percent) and
NEC (19 percent). The rankings are essentially unchanged from the Top500
survey in November 2001. Five of the top 10 systems ranked were from IBM.

“If you do analyze the top500 list, there tends to be a lot of change in the bottom,” said Surjit Chana, vice president for high-performance computing. “The top of the list tells the story.”

The DoD committed to using an IBM supercomputer named Blue Ocean in Naval
Oceanographic Office (Navoceano) research into vaccines for malaria and
other infectious diseases. IBM said the supercomputer, which has the ability
to process more than 6 trillion calculations per second, would become the
most powerful computer in the entire DoD.

Blue Ocean will be located at the Stennis Space Center, in Mississippi, as
part of the DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program.

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.

In addition to the DoD project, IBM said Audi bought a p690-based
supercomputer to speed up the complex calculations needed in its sheet-metal
simulations. The eight-processor system promises to double the previous
computing power for the simulations.

Germany’s High Performance Computing Center bought a p690-based
supercomputer to use in its “Grand Challenge” research project, which aims
to tackle thorny global issues in science, chemistry, life sciences, and
climate modeling. The supercomputer boasts processing power of 4 trillion
calculations per second.

According to the Top500 survey, nine p690-based supercomputers rank in the
top 50 of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, including the
eighth fastest, a computer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

In March, IBM and the U.S. Department of Energy accelerated a grid-computing plan to use two IBM supercomputers for
scientific research.

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