IBM aims for top ten with new Spanish supercomputer

IBM Corp. and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science introduced a new supercomputer on Friday that they hope will be the most powerful in Europe, and among the ten most powerful in the world.

Dubbed “MareNostrum,” the supercomputer employs a cluster of 2,520 eServer BladeCenter JS20 systems running the Linux operating system. IBM expects it to be the first supercomputer to attain a top 10 ranking using blade server technology.

MareNostrum is being built by IBM and the Spanish government for scientific and industrial research into the human body, meteorology, environment and industrial processes. Currently located at an IBM technical centre in Madrid, the system is due to be moved to its permanent home at the Polytechnic University in Barcelona by the end of the year.

The system currently comprises 3,564 PowerPC processors, but will have 4,564 processors by the time it is fully completed, IBM said.

IBM expects the computer’s peak performance to reach 40Tflops. At its current configuration the computer already reached a sustained performance of 20.53Tflops, with peak performance of 31.36Tflops, IBM said.

MareNostrum’s unveiling Friday comes just days before the Top500 Supercomputer Sites list is released on Tuesday. IBM hopes the list will confirm its ranking predictions.

The Armonk, New York, company, said that in addition to allowing it to achieving performance goals, MareNostrum’s use of blade technology has lead to significant cost savings. The system’s cost or savings estimates were not given, however.

“This is certainly a cheaper technology to pull together and will help advance Spain as a research and development centre,” said IBM Deep Computing Sales Manager Caroline Isaac.

IBM also lauded its size. It occupies a floor area of 160 square meters, which is 22 times less than the currently-ranked number-one supercomputer Earth Simulator. It requires less energy than other supercomputers — 600 kilowatts — and does not require additional cooling systems, IBM said.

“It doesn’t require water cooling and in terms of total cost of ownership that’s as cheap as it gets,” Isaac said.

MareNostrum has already received ample attention from the scientific community, IBM said. Scientists are hoping to use the supercomputer for research into the life sciences and health care, including studies in environmental changes, the human genome and natural disasters. Industrial and management processes for business applications in the aerospace, automobile and pharmaceutical industries are also anticipated.

“There is certainly room for industrial outreach and scientific partnerships,” Isaac said.

A consortium formed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, the Spanish government and the Polytechnic University of Catalunya will run MareNostrum, IBM said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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