The two-year reign of the massive Earth Simulator as the fastest supercomputer in the world appears to be nearing an end.
IBM executives on Wednesday will announce that one of the new machines in its Blue Gene project earlier this month reached a sustained peak of 36.01 trillion calculations per second—or 36.01 teraflops—during internal tests in the companys laboratory in Rochester, Minn.
That peak bested the 35.86 teraflops reached by the 5,120-processor Earth Simulator computer, built by NEC Corp. and housed in Yokohama, Japan. IBM has sent the results to the Top500 organization, which twice a year releases a list of the top 500 computers in the world, said David Turek, vice president of IBMs Deep Computing unit.
The tests were conducted using an industry-standard benchmark, called LinPack, Turek said.
The Blue Gene/L machine overtaking the Earth Simulator has political as well as technical implications. When the Earth Simulator was introduced in 2002, it stunned the U.S. scientific and political community, which feared that the United States was losing its technological edge. The government set aside money to entice companies such as IBM, Silicon Graphics Inc. and Cray Inc. to develop supercomputers that could run faster than the Earth Simulator.
Turek said Blue Gene/Ls benchmark results indicate that the Armonk, N.Y., company is on the right track for developing the next generation of supercomputers. It also shows that the United States is not lagging in technological advancements.
"The U.S. supercomputing industry, at least as far as IBMs participation, is not a moribund industry," he said. "Innovation is proceeding."
IBMs Blue Gene project is aimed at creating massively powerful supercomputers that are smaller, cheaper and consume less energy than similar machines. IBM said the Blue Gene/L that company tested is 320 square feet in size and consumes 216 kilowatts of power. By comparison, the Earth Simulator is 32,500 square feet and consumes 6,000 kilowatts, officials said.
Currently, IBM has Blue Gene/L projects under way at four sites, most recently at Japans National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. However, the first one set to be completed—and the largest—will be at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.
That system—which will have more than 64,000 dual-processor compute nodes housed in 64 racks—will reach a peak of 360 teraflops. That system is scheduled to be completed by May 2005.
Other sites buying a Blue Gene/L supercomputer include the ASTRON—or Netherlands Foundation for Radio Astronomy—project and the Argonne National Laboratory, in Argonne, Ill.
A key to Blue Gene/L—which runs Linux and IBMs PowerPC 440GX processors—is its modular approach, Turek said. It can scale up to 360 teraflops, but it also can scale down. IBM has begun the process of commercializing the systems so that customers can buy them.
Already Blue Gene/L has caught the attention of the supercomputing community. Two of the supercomputers were placed on the Top 500 list in June
Blue Gene/L is only one part of IBMs Blue Gene project. Around 2007, IBM is expected to roll out the next generation of Blue Gene/L systems. At the same time, IBM has Blue Gene/C and Blue Gene/P in the works.
Blue Gene/P is expected to reach a peak of 1 petaflop, or 1 quadrillion calculations per second.