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Hot off the Press - News

IBM's Blue Gene/L TV sized Super Computer, and it runs Linux.
November. 15th, 2003

Unveiling a unique supercomputer design, IBM said its Blue Gene/L machine is the size of a dishwasher and uses air-cooling methods to cut energy costs. The supercomputer is currently ranked as the 73rd fastest computer in the world.

The company has ambitious plans for the Blue Gene/L: it plans to boost the machine to first place in the supercomputer speed race by 2005, achieving a theoretical 360 trillion operations a second. 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.

"It's really this system-on-a-chip technology," said Bill Pulleyblank, the director of exploratory server systems for IBM research. "The real secret is by using these low-power processors and by doing some careful engineering on it,

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we're able to air-cool the machine," said Pulleyblank. Because of these two elements, Blue Gene requires about one-tenth the cooling of a typical supercomputer.

The small size and the sparse energy consumption are unique features of the Blue Gene/L. Most other supercomputers have very large footprints and use water and air-cooling processes. The machine IBM unveiled Friday has more than 1000 PowerPC processors. IBM plans to interconnect 128 copies of that configuration to produce the final version of the machine. The company's very long-term goal is to achieve one full petaflop of calculations--one quadrillion calculations a second.

Running the Linux (news - web sites) operating system, the Blue Gene/L is part of a project to solve complex genetic-research problems. The final full-blown configuration is being assembled for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. The 700-MHz processors have a peak power consumption on the order of 10 to 15 watts per node, said Don Dossa, a computational physicist with Lawrence Livermore.



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