IBM Says Blue Gene Breaks Speed Record - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Hardware & Infrastructure

IBM Says Blue Gene Breaks Speed Record

Unlike a competing Japanese computer, BlueGene/L uses a derivative of off-the-shelf processors. It also uses an unusually large number of them.

NEW YORK - IBM Corp. claimed unofficial bragging rights Tuesday as owner of the world's fastest supercomputer.

For three years running, the fastest supercomputer has been NEC's Earth Simulator in Japan.

"The fact that non-U.S. vendor like NEC had the fastest computer was seen as a big challenge for U.S. computer industry," said Horst Simon, director of the supercomputing center at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California.

"That an American vendor and an American application has won back the No. 1 spot — that's the main significance of this."

Earth Simulator can sustain speeds of 35.86 teraflops.

IBM said its still-unfinished BlueGene/L System, named for its ability to model the folding of human proteins, can sustain speeds of 36 teraflops. A teraflop is 1 trillion calculations per second.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plans to install the Blue Gene/L system next year with 130,000 processors and 64 racks, half a tennis court in size. The labs will use it for modeling the behavior and aging of high explosives, astrophysics, cosmology and basic science, lab spokesman Bob Hirschfeld said.

The prototype for which IBM claimed the speed record is located in Rochester, Minn., has 16,250 processors and takes up eight racks of space.

While IBM's speed sets a new benchmark, the official list of the world's fastest supercomputers will not be released until November. A handful of scientists who audit the computers' reported speeds publish them on

Supercomputing is significant because of its implications for national security as well as such fields as global climate modeling, astrophysics and genetic research.

Supercomputing technology IBM introduced a decade ago has evolved into a $3 billion to $4 billion business for the company, said Simon.

Unlike the more specialized architecture of the Japanese supercomputer, IBM's BlueGene/L uses a derivative of commercially available off-the-shelf processors. It also uses an unusually large number of them.

The resulting computer is smaller and cooler than other supercomputers, reducing its running costs, said Hirschfeld. He did not have a dollar figure for how much lower Blue Gene's costs will be than other supercomputers.

However, other supercomputers can do things Blue Gene cannot, such as produce 3-D simulations of nuclear explosions, Hirschfeld said.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
How GIS Data Can Help Fix Vaccine Distribution
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/17/2021
Graph-Based AI Enters the Enterprise Mainstream
James Kobielus, Tech Analyst, Consultant and Author,  2/16/2021
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll