IBM Supercomputer to Help Volvo Avert Crashes


Volvo moved to make its cars safer by asking IBM to build a supercomputer
that performs crash simulations.


IBM will provide more than 150 IBM eServer 325 machines running AMD Opteron
processors, as well as services to help increase the “design-for-safety”
approach cultivated by the Swedish car company. IBM did not disclose the
cost of the contract, which is a multi-million-dollar deal.


The machines will work in tandem with Volvo’s existing xSeries 335 and
pSeries 655 high performance computing platform, launched in 2002. The
system is expected to become one of the automotive industry’s fastest Linux
clusters, based on systems listed on the Top500 Supercomputer list, IBM said
in a statement.


For Volvo, the crash tests that were once run overnight are now run at least
twice a day with the new system. They also help the car company save money
on physical crash test simulations, which can cost hundreds of thousands of
dollars each.

The contract is one of IBM’s largest Opteron deals, and comes at a time when
the company has been pushing its Power brand as one of the top architectures
in the semiconductor sector.


IBM is no stranger to car manufacturers, which require advanced computing to
perform rigorous tests that help ensure vehicle safety. The Armonk, N.Y.,
systems vendor embarked on a similar agreement with General Motors a year ago.


Under that contract, IBM agreed to provide 145 p655 servers for the
automaker to use in auto development and virtual crash simulations. The cost of
the contract was not made public, although it is believed to range in the
millions of dollars.


The servers run at nine teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second.
They will perform tasks twice as fast as the IBM pSeries 690 systems GM
began using in 2002.


IBM, which also provides high-performance computing machines to national
Laboratories, such as Lawrence Livermore, leads the Top500 list with the most
powerful supercomputer.


The machine is a Blue Gene/L model. It was last clocked
at 135.3 trillion floating points per second, according to the Department of
Energy (DoE). The DoE is using the supercomputer to maintain the U.S.
nuclear weapons stockpile.


IBM’s supercomputing rivals include SGI, Cray, HP and Sun Microsystems.

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