IBM's Power4 chip will fight disease first

IBM Corp. on Thursday announced the first hardware built around its next-generation Power4 chip, signing on to deliver one of the world's largest computing systems dedicated to finding answers about diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and the human form of mad cow disease.

Germany's Max Planck Society tapped IBM to build a supercomputer around the company's upcoming Power4 chip set for release in the fourth quarter. The scientific organization will use the computing system to make close to 3.8 trillion calculations per second. Scientists are likely to focus their attention on studying instabilities at the atomic level in the structure of proteins. Those instabilities could be responsible for a number of diseases. Mad cow disease, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, can affect both livestock and human beings.

The Power4 processor will make its way into Big Blue's high-end systems first but will eventually become part of the company's entire eServer line, said to Dave Gelardi, director of high-performance computing at IBM. Gelardi said the Power4 will be the first chip in the industry to feature two processors. It also will use two relatively new IBM chip features: copper wiring and silicon-on-insulator technology.

IBM plans to cluster two dozen 32-way servers to form a single computing system, allowing the Max Plank Society system to run 10 times faster than the society's current hardware. Part of the project will be ready by the end of this year, with the entire system due for completion in 2002.

The Power4 can run either the AIX 5L version of the Unix operating system or Linux.

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