IBM To Build Supercomputer For Disease Research - InformationWeek

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IBM To Build Supercomputer For Disease Research

IBM plans to build the world's largest commercial supercomputer for genetic research company NuTec Sciences Inc. The supercomputing cluster of more than a thousand servers will help scientists find the cause of diseases and identify the best way to treat them.

According to James Coffin, IBM's world director of life-science solutions, the system will be the "fifth or sixth" most powerful computer in the world, and the most powerful computer outside of government use. "It would be 18 to 20,000 times faster than a standard PC," he says, performing 7.5 trillion calculations per second. The supercomputing cluster will consist of 1,250 IBM eServer p640 servers running the company's AIX Operating Systems and DB2 Universal Database. It will have 2.5 terabytes of memory, 50 terabytes of disk storage, and a high-bandwidth networking infrastructure.

The system will be used in part to help scientists understand the genetic basis of diseases. "NuTec is working with the National Institutes of Health to look at very complex diseases such as heart disease and diabetes," says Coffin, and will use the supercomputer to search patient data and identify disease-causing gene combinations. Coffin declined to give the cost of the system, identifying it only as in the "tens of millions."

For IBM, construction of the system represents the company's desire to expand its business in this cutting-edge science. "We house 70% of the world's data," Coffin says, "and we're looking to be the lead data-management company in the world in life sciences." Computing-intensive genetic sciences require powerful machines, but also need massive amounts of data storage and the software to perform the necessary analyses, he says. NuTec is using a lot of IBM's middleware tools, and IBM is working with a number of other genetic research companies as well. Says Coffin, "It's a very long-term strategic industry initiative."

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