IBM establishes supercomputer centre

Trying to take its On Demand computing initiative to a new frontier, IBM Corp. on Tuesday is announcing the opening of a facility for delivering supercomputing-class processing power to developers over the Internet, which is intended to eliminate the exorbitant costs of owning such a system.

The company’s Deep Computing On Demand strategy will reportedly provide developers with both Unix- and Linux-based clustered supercomputers that can be accessed from anywhere in the world securely using a VPN, company officials said.

IBM also announced that GX Technology, a producer of high-resolution subsurface images culled from large amounts of seismic data, will be one of the first companies to use the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based centre’s capabilities. The subsurface images supply critical information to companies exploring for new oil and natural gas deposits.

“Dry hole costs are now in the range of (US)$5 to $60 million each, so those companies exploring for oil and gas reserves can use these subsurface images to reduce their drilling risks and shorten product cycle times,” said Mick Lambert, president and CEO of the Houston-based GX Technology.

IBM officials said developers and corporate end-user companies signing up can use the centre for as little as a couple of weeks or stretching out to several months. For the most part, the centre’s server-based clusters are systems powered by IBM’s 64-bit Power 4-based pSeries under AIX and 32-bit Intel-based xSeries systems, all of which run Linux.

“The way it will work is that users will run tasks on a small cluster for a few days to get started. We will then give them the software that propagates their environment across the broader clusters and just let them go at it. We really think this is a new model for delivering supercomputing, and the response from the market is telling us this could be a transformational idea,” said Dave Turek, IBM’s vice president in charge of Deep Computing.

IBM hopes to announce deals with six other companies within the next 10 days and as many as 10 more by the middle of July, according to Turek. He declined to name those companies now in negotiations.

“I feel that this is just the beginning. Most of the companies interested now are in the life sciences and petroleum fields, but we are seeing some interest coming out of the financial services and industrial sectors,” Turek said.

But Turek thinks the centre will be attractive to small and large companies in any industry that has dramatic peaks and valleys in their need for added processing power, including a range of government agencies and Hollywood studios that need that sort of power to produce animated movies.