IBM and Umeå University Announce Energy Efficient Supercomputer for Research

'Akka' is Europe’s largest Windows compute cluster

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - 17 Jun 2008: IBM and Umeå University announced today that the most powerful Windows-based computer in Europe is being installed at the supercomputer center known as HPC2N. Scientists at HPC2N will use the powerful system – running on a beta version of Windows HPC Server 2008® – for basic as well as applied research.

The computer – nicknamed “Akka” – combines IBM Power® microprocesors and Cell Broadband Engines® with new energy-efficient Xeon® quad-core processors from Intel. Akka will be capable of sustained performance of 46 trillion calculations per second (46 teraflops) and a peak output of 54 teraflops. It would rank among the 50 fastest supercomputers in the world according to the current list of the TOP500 Supercomputer Sites ( It is about 3,000 times more powerful than a laptop computer.

The High Performance Computing Center North (HPC2N) is a consortium of Universities and research institutes in northern Sweden, housed at Umeå University. It is a member of SNIC, the Swedish Research Council’s metacentre for high performance computing. Akka will serve as a powerful resource for the Swedish academic research community with a range of application areas including space science, material science, bioinformatics, theoretical physics and chemistry, engineering sciences, as well as basic research in parallel algorithms, library software and middleware for grid infrastructure.

The system runs two operating systems – Windows and Linux – in what is known as a dual-boot design.

“This new system brings supercomputing to new users and new application areas,” said Professor Bo Kågström at Umeå University and director of HPC2N. “This is the first supercomputer in Sweden with both Linux and Windows operating systems. It will be very exciting to see how new results can be achieved by combining and utilizing these different hardware and operating systems.”

“This installation is a good example of how IBM and Microsoft can work together to enable a wider number of research opportunities with a broader choice of operating systems that includes Windows HPC Server 2008 with its best-in-class performance and high productivity capabilities,” said Kyril Faenov, general manager of the HPC division at Microsoft.

Energy-conscious supercomputing
The Umeå system requires less electricity to run and cool than other supercomputer designs that connect clusters of “PC-style” processors. The system’s energy efficient design is a hallmark of a new generation of IBM hardware designed to couple improved performance with maximum energy efficiency. It utilizes a compact configuration based on IBM’s BladeCenter technology with powerful low-voltage processors.This allows Akka to perform about 266 million calculations per second per watt (266 megaflops/watt) based on sustained performance, according to methodology used by the “Green500” list of the world’s most energy efficient supercomputers ( It would rank as the most energy-efficient Windows cluster on the current Green500 list (

“IBM is developing all new supercomputer packages to bring energy-efficient designs to new industries,” said Dave Jursik, VP of supercomputer sales for IBM. “Working with Intel and Microsoft we can create powerful cluster solutions that address the growing needs of researchers such as the scientists in Sweden.”

“The choice of low-power processors and the highly energy-efficient design of our new machine room show our commitment to become a green data center,” says Professor Bo Kågström.

“In an increasingly energy conscious environment, where performance must be delivered at reduced energy levels Intel’s Xeon ® quad-core processors deliver the high performance mandated by supercomputing together with world-class energy-efficiency, ” said Christian Morales, EMEA Vice President and General Manager of Intel Corporation.

The new Supercomputer was delivered and implemented by IBM’s Business Partner Gridcore with expertise in the delivery of high performance computing solutions.

Technical details
The system is based on 672 IBM HS21XM Blades which include Intel’s low-voltage Xeon ® quad-core, 2.5 GHz, 50-watt processor, with a total of 5,376 processor cores as well as IBM Cell BE-blades and Power6-blades. The system also includes IBM DS4800 Storage and uses high-speed interconnect InfiniBand and Ethernet interconnects.Akka posted a Linpack Benchmark performance rating of 46.04 sustained teraflops with 85.6% efficiency using Windows HPC Server 2008.

For more information about HPC2N, visit

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Related resources


The supercomputer Akka at HPC2N at Umeå University in Sweden.

Dr Mats Nylén at Umeå University in Sweden together with professor Bo Kågström at Umeå University and director of HPC2N in front of Akka, the supercomputer at HPC2N in Sweden.

Professor Bo Kågström at Umeå University and director of HPC2N in Sweden in front of Akka, the supercomputer at HPC2N in Sweden.

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