IBM lands DOE deal for fastest supercomputers

IBM Corp. has secured a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), valued at between US$216 million to US$267 million, to build two supercomputers, including the ASCI Purple, which is being billed as the first computer to top 100 teraflops, or 100 trillion calculations per second, IBM said Tuesday.

ASCI Purple will include 12,544 Power 5 computer chips, the next version of IBM’s proprietary PowerPC chip. The processors will be contained in 196 individual computers.The system will offer 50TB of memory, and two petabytes of storage, which is equivalent to the content of about one billion books, the Armonk, N.Y., company said in a statement.

The ASCI Purple system is being built for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, for which IBM has also built the supercomputers ASCI White, unveiled in August 2001, and ASCI Blue Pacific, unveiled in October 1998. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the DOE and works in partnership with the NNSA’s Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

The ASCI Purple will be 8 times faster than the ASCI White computer, which was itself ranked as the world’s fourth most powerful supercomputer earlier this month by the Top 500 supercomputer list.

ASCI Purple will be delivered in stages between now and 2005 with the first IBM computer server arriving next year, IBM said.

The second supercomputer IBM is contracted to build, in conjunction with the DOE, is the Blue Gene/L. That supercomputer, expected to be completed in 2005, will be used to conduct research in areas such as predicting global climate change as well as the study of turbulence, prediction of material properties and the behaviour of high explosives, the company said.

Blue Gene/L will run at 360 teraflops, or 360 trillion calculations per second based on sets of two microprocessors working simultaneously. It will have 130,000 processors running Linux.

Blue Gene/L will be used by all three NNSA laboratories, the ASCI University Alliance collaborators as well as other DOE laboratories.

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