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Intel Corp. said recently that its Itanium family of processors will be used to build a distributed scientific computing system it claims will be the largest of its kind. The supercomputing system, called “TeraGrid,” is part of a US$53 million award by the National Science Foundation to four facilities to do scientific research. Creating a Distributed Terascale Facility, Intel says TeraGrid will link computers powered by more than 3,300 Intel Itanium processors. It will be capable of more than 13.6 trillion calculations per second, or 13.6 teraflops, and have the ability to store, access and share more than 450 trillion bytes of information.

Researchers across the U.S. will be able to access the facility to quickly analyze, simulate and solve scientific problems. Some of that research may be in the areas of molecular modeling for disease detection, cures and drug discovery, automobile crash simulations, research on alternative energy sources, and climate and atmospheric simulations for more accurate weather predictions, according to Intel.

Expected to be available in 2002, the TeraGrid will build upon an existing one-teraflops system with more than 300 Itanium processors now being deployed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). The TeraGrid will be based on both Intel’s Itanium and “McKinley” processors. McKinley is the code name for the second product in Intel’s Itanium processor family, due in 2002.

The system will consist of clustered IBM servers running the Linux operating system, and will be connected by a Qwest high-speed optical network.