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7/27/2004
06:17 PM
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Navy Hires IBM To Build Military's Fastest Computer

IBM has won a contract to build a supercomputer three times faster than anything the Defense Department has today.

IBM has won a contract to build what will be the U.S. military's fastest supercomputer. The system, dubbed Kraken after a mythic sea monster that sinks ships, will run at 20 teraflops--about three times faster than any current system in use by the Department of Defense.

IBM is building Kraken for the Navy's Major Shared Resource Center at the Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The system features 368 IBM p655 eServers--each containing eight Power 4+ processors--connected to operate as a single unit. The system will use IBM's AIX Unix operating system. IBM officials say the Navy paid tens of millions of dollars for Kraken but declined to be more specific. Navy officials weren't immediately available for comment.

Kraken is designed to let naval scientists and engineers more quickly solve problems that can affect the outcome of military engagements. Among other things, it will improve their weather forecasting, missile design, and oceanographic-mapping capabilities. The system is scheduled to begin operating by September.

Debra Goldfarb, VP for strategy and products in IBM's Deep Computing unit, says the challenge is in roping more than 300 servers into a unified system. "It's not an easy thing to make happen," she says. Tweaking applications to take advantage of the system's full power presents a number of challenges, Goldfarb says. Currently, the fastest computer in the world is an NEC-built 40-teraflop system at the Earth Simulator Center in Japan.

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