IBM to build second 'Blue Gene' supercomputer

Plans for a new, more powerful and energy-efficient supercomputer were unveiled Friday by IBM Corp. as part of its ongoing Blue Gene research project.

In its announcement, the vendor said the new machine will be jointly designed by IBM and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Called Blue Gene/L, the machine will be at least 15 times faster and 15 times more power efficient than today's fastest supercomputers but will only take up one-fiftieth of the space. The machine will be built even while the original Blue Gene supercomputer project is still under construction. That project is expected to be completed by 2004, while Blue Gene/L is expected to be ready in 2005.

The new machine is expected to operate at about 200 TFLOPS, or 200 trillion floating-point operations per second -- larger than the total computing power of the top 500 supercomputers in the world today, according to IBM. Blue Gene/L will also include IBM systems that allow complex computers to do their own self-repairing, self-managing and self-configuring, making them easier to manage and set up.

Earlier today, IBM unveiled a climate research supercomputer that it built for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. That machine, which will more than double research capacity for climate studies, will be used to predict climatological changes that can affect agricultural output, heating oil prices and global warming.

For IBM, the latest Blue Gene/L project is designed to demonstrate commercial uses for the powerful machines, so the company can market that end of its research for additional sales.

"Our initial exploration made us realize we can expand our Blue Gene project to deliver more commercially viable architectures for a broad customer set and still accomplish our original goal of protein science simulations," said Mark Dean, vice president of systems at IBM Research, in a statement. "Partnering with Lawrence Livermore is a key part of our strategy, as they bring important application and design expertise to the project."

Researchers at the national laboratories plan to use Blue Gene/L to simulate physical events -- including aging of materials, fires, and explosions -- that require computational capability much greater than what is now available.

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