Harvard takes IBM’s Blue Gene to heart

IBM on Thursday announced that Harvard University is using an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, which holds the title as the fastest supercomputer in the world, to support research into the human heart and circulatory system.

Harvard’s Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences is deploying a Blue Gene System that includes 4,096 PowerPC processors in two racks, covering an area of less than three square-meters. IBM says the system uses four times less space and five times less power than a traditional cluster providing equivalent processing power.

The deployment is the largest Blue Gene system in academia, IBM says. A larger version is running at the Lawrence Livermore national Laboratory and is currently ranked as the fastest supercomputer in the world.

IBM designed Blue Gene to give customers extreme processing power while greatly reducing size and power demands.

The system at Harvard is called the CrimsonGridBGL and is an expansion of the Crimson Grid, which is a more traditional computing Grid that IBM deployed at Harvard in 2003.

The CrimsonGridBGL offers peak performance of 11 trillion floating point calculations per second. Blue Gene is able to calculate complex problems quickly – and simultaneously – thanks to its thousands of processors and low latency connections.

Initially, projects that will run on Blue Gene will include modeling complex, vast systems or events such as: the human hemodynamic (blood circulation) system; cell self-assembly and tissue morphogenesis as they relate to fundamental processes underlying cardiac organogenesis (the development of the heart); computer system behavior; the mechanical response of materials used in advanced integrated circuits; and the formation history of galaxies.

“With the tremendous computational capabilities of the Blue Gene system, research deployment, or the ability to handle multiple projects at the same time, will increase five-fold,” Jayanta Sircar, CIO at DEAS and the director of the Crimson Grid Project, said in a statement. “The existing grid infrastructure, which you can think of as an entry point to accessing the Blue Gene system, will provide a consistent and integrated high speed network for managing workflow.”

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