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IBM's Blue Gene Bursts onto Top 500 Supercomputer List

"Teraflop in a box" is only the beginning of a new wave of supercomputers

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YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. - 14 Nov 2003: IBM today announced that a computer roughly the size of a 30-inch television has been ranked as the 73rd most powerful supercomputer in the world.

Next week the Top500 Supercomputer project will announce its latest ranking of the 500 most powerful supercomputers, as measured by an industry-standard benchmark. With a peak speed of 2 teraflops (2 trillion mathematical operations per second), an initial small-scale prototype of IBM's Blue Gene/L supercomputer has been rated as a world-leader, even though it occupies a mere half-rack of space, about one cubic meter.

The full Blue Gene/L machine, which is being built for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, will be 128 times larger, occupying 64 full racks. When completed in 2005, IBM expects Blue Gene/L to lead the Top500 supercomputer list. Compared with today's fastest supercomputers, it will be six times faster, consume 1/15th the power per computation and be 10 times more compact than today's fastest supercomputers.

"Blue Gene's entry onto the Top500 list marks a fracture in the history of supercomputing -- it will revolutionize the way supercomputers and servers are built and broaden the kinds of applications we can run on them," said William Pulleyblank, director of exploratory server systems, IBM Research. "This is a major milestone for the Blue Gene family of supercomputers and a scientific achievement resulting from IBM's sustained commitment to exploratory research."

The Blue Gene/L prototype machine is roughly 1/20th the physical size of machines of comparable compute power that exist today -- such as Linux clusters. By comparison, today's 2 teraflop supercomputers fill up entire rooms, often with more than a dozen racks. By making dramatic reductions in power consumption, cost and space requirements, IBM researchers are helping to turn massively parallel computing into an affordable, practical and accessible tool for science and industry.

"We're very excited about the prospects of Blue Gene, because the scale of this machine is unprecedented," said Mark Seager, principal investigator for ASCI platforms at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "The scale of the science that we will be able to do is phenomenal."

The Blue Gene Family: A New Age Dawns in Supercomputing
Blue Gene is an IBM supercomputing project to build a new family of supercomputer optimized for bandwidth, scalability and the ability to handle large amounts of data while consuming a fraction of the power and floor space required by today's fastest systems. Among the first applications IBM is exploring to harness Blue Gene's massive computing power is to model the folding of human proteins. Learning more about how proteins fold is expected to give medical researchers better understanding of diseases, as well as potential cures.

The first machine in the family, Blue Gene/L, is expected to operate at a peak performance of about 360 teraflops (360 trillion operations per second), and occupy 64 racks -- taking up only about the same space as half of a tennis court. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) plan to use Blue Gene/L to simulate physical phenomena that require computational capability much greater than presently available. LLNL researchers hope to use Blue Gene/L to investigate areas such as cosmology and the behavior of stellar binary pairs, laser-plasma interactions, and the behavior and aging of high explosives.

The architecture is also proving to be readily adaptable to a range of applications, and will be more affordable than current supercomputing resources due to its smaller physical size and power efficiency.

Blue Gene/L is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)'s Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program. LLNL is operated for the NNSA by the University of California. The Top 500 list is compiled by a group of computer science academics from around the world.

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