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Switzerland's Fastest Computer Installed in IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory


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Zurich, Switzerland - 12 Dec 2002: Switzerland's fastest computer has been installed in IBM's Research Laboratory in Rüschlikon near Zurich. Ranked 70 among the world's top 500 computers the system works at a top speed of more than a trillion operations per second. The computer will be used by IBM scientists to advance research in computational biochemistry and material sciences. Sophisticated algorithms running on the supercomputer will model the behavior of matter on the atomic scale.

Modeling is crucial to understand the chemical and physical processes that take place at the interface of different materials in a multi-component device, for example, or when drugs interact in the human body. It is the basis for efficiently designing new materials and new drug compounds.

"The new supercomputer is a tremendous asset for IBM scientists and a powerful showcase for IBM's supercomputing technology", says Krishna Nathan, director of IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory. "We have some of the world's top experts in computer simulations. The new supercomputer will help them advance their research."

"These calculations require sophisticated software algorithms and massive parallel computing power because of the huge amount of data and number of process steps to be computed for a reliable simulation of any real system," says Wanda Andreoni, head of the computational biochemistry and materials science effort at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory. "Additional compute power will allow us to tackle more complex systems and to monitor their behavior over longer time scales. It will also permit faster screening of molecular structures stored in a database."

Zurich scientists are constantly demonstrating the value of their work in research projects both for IBM and industrial partners in the framework of IBM Research's Deep Computing projects. Examples at Zurich include the design of novel materials for organic electronics, simulating how progesterone interacts with its receptor in the human body and identifying molecules responsible for the degradation of flavor in food.

Technical details

The new supercomputer system of IBM's eServer p690 series deploys a total of 260 Power4 processors working at a clock speed of 1.3 GHz and performing four floating-point operations (flops*) per cycle. This leads to a theoretical peak performance of 5.2 Gflops per processor, or a system top speed of 1.35 Tflops. The system consists of nine linked units with a total memory capacity of 516 GB of random-access memory (RAM). The eight shared-memory processor (SMP) nodes are interconnected by Gigabit Ethernet switches that allow links between any two nodes at a maximum speed of 1 Gigabit per second. The system also includes 2.19 TB of disk space stored on 30 disks of 73 Gigabyte capacity each. General Parallel File System (GPFS) is the software that allows very fast, parallel reading and writing, and enables the entire disk space to be used as one unit.

Rank 70 among the world's top 500 machines (list of November 2002) was determined by LINPACK, a widely accepted benchmark among experts for estimating the "real" performance of a supercomputer. The machine will lead to a doubling of Switzerland's aggregate installed computer power of systems included in the top 500 list. A second system providing similar performance is the IBM supercomputer in operation at the Swiss National Scientific Computing Center in Manno, ranked number 73.

* A floating point operation represents the multiplication of two numbers with 1 place before and 15 places after the decimal point; floating point operations per second (flops) is a standard measure of computing speed.

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