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New IBM Supercomputer Features High Speed, Low Power

Test results show Blue Gene/L, being built under contract for the government with more than 1,000 PowerPC processors, is the world's 73rd-fastest supercomputer.
IBM on Friday released test results that rank Blue Gene/L, an experimental supercomputer designed for high speed and low power, as the world's 73rd-fastest system. The benchmark shows IBM's system, being assembled under government contract for Lawrence Livermore National Lab, sustaining 1.4 trillion mathematical operations per second.

But IBM is adding to the system almost daily, says VP Dave Turek. "In two weeks, you might see 3 teraflops." IBM eventually plans to build Blue Gene/L into a 360-teraflop machine, which would be the world's fastest. If reached, that would eclipse the performance of the current supercomputer in first place, NEC's Earth Simulator, in Japan. IBM's prediction assumes that no competing supercomputer will surpass it in the interim.

The announcement comes in advance of a supercomputing conference in Phoenix this week, when a closely watched list of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers will be released by a group of computer-science professors.

Turek calls Blue Gene/L a "concept car," part of broader IBM research into building a supercomputer based on data-chip "cells" that contain microprocessors and memory. The design speeds data access in the computer and consumes less power. The machine IBM unveiled Friday has more than 1,000 PowerPC processors. IBM plans to interconnect 128 copies of that configuration to produce the final version of the machine.

IBM senior VP Bill Zeitler says "that idea--much higher levels of on-chip integration--will find its way into mainstream products." Within a few years, he says, IBM blade servers could include derivatives of the Blue Gene architecture.