IBM Offers Pay-As-You-Go Access To Blue Gene Supercomputer - InformationWeek

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IBM Offers Pay-As-You-Go Access To Blue Gene Supercomputer

The program will make supercomputing capabilities available to even small companies for 50 to 90 cents per megaflop.

For the first time, IBM says it will give business customers online access to its powerful Blue Gene supercomputer on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Under a program revealed Friday, IBM customers will be able to tap into up to 5.7 teraflops--or 5.7 trillion computing operations per second--of computing power on a Blue Gene system residing in Rochester, N.Y., through a secure VPN, the company says.

To date, only the most compute-intensive industries, such as life sciences and engineering, have been able to justify the cost of purchasing a supercomputer--a fact that has relegated the market for such systems to niche status. Blue Gene computers start at more than $1 million for the most basic configuration. Now IBM officials hope to extend the market by offering access to Blue Gene on an "on-demand" basis.

"There are a lot of industries where it doesn't make sense to buy a supercomputer, but where you could make good use of that power on an occasional basis," says Dave Turek, IBM's VP for deep computing. He says the program could make supercomputing more appealing to mainstream businesses such as financial services and manufacturing.

IBM will charge between 50 and 90 cents per megaflop of computing power consumed, Turek says. A megaflop is 1 million computing operations per second. The program will bring IBM additional revenue from its supercomputing group without cutting into existing sales, Turek says. "This will be absolutely incremental," he says. He declined to estimate how much revenue the offering could yield for IBM.

Beyond larger, mainstream businesses, smaller high-tech companies might also use the program to access supercomputing power without having to pay up front for a system. One such company that has already signed on is QuantumBio Inc., a small research company that develops and tests new drugs for pharmaceutical manufacturers. QuantumBio CEO Kevin Harter says he thinks access to Blue Gene will help the company win more customers and grow faster. Not having a supercomputer "has kept us out of some business," Harter says.

IBM is working with a number of software application developers to help enable their programs to run remotely on Blue Gene. Novell SuSE, LSTC, and Allinea are among the developers IBM has tapped for the program.

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