IBM Boosts Supercomputer Data Speed by 600%

The company's "Project Fastball" combines Blue Gene supercomputing power with IBM's GPFS software to make one of the largest file systems in the world.

IBM officials say theyve found a method for speeding up the way large computer networks retrieve and share information by as much as 600 percent, a move that could impact data-intensive, high-performance computing environments.

For its "Project Fastball," IBM used the combination of the compute power of ASC Purple, the massive IBM-designed Blue Gene supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., and IBMs General Parallel File System software.

The combination demonstrated more than 102GB per second of sustained read-and-write performance on a single file, which is more than a 600 percent jump in the speed of data, said Chris Maher, development director for HPC development at IBM.

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The GPFS software was used to manage the flow of information between the thousands of processors and disk storage devices in the supercomputer.

The project used 104 Power-based eServer p575 nodes and 416 storage controllers, according to IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y.

The project resulted in a file system of 1.6 petabytes, one of the largest in the world, Maher said. The performance of the file was maintained as more than 1,000 clients pushed workloads into the file.

Maher equated that speed to downloading 25,000 songs in a second.

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"This kind of capability opens doors to new kinds of applications in high-performance computing," he said.

Such applications include online gaming, customized medicine and homeland security, where massive amounts of data need to be analyzed quickly, all of which would benefit from being able to move data between machines in massive supercomputing environments, he said.

Such environments are growing, as is the need to manage the large amounts of data stored in them.

"Its not just 1,500 servers, but a collection of 1,500 servers that act like a single computer system," Maher said.

ASC (Advanced Simulation and Computing) Purple is the third-most powerful supercomputer in the world, and was built through IBMs Blue Gene supercomputer project.

On the Top 500 list of the fastest computers released in November 2005 at the Supercomputing conference, the ASC Purple computer topped out at 63.39 teraflops—or 63.39 trillion calculations per second—on 10,240 processors.

IBMs Blue Gene program produced the top three fastest systems, and four in the top 10.

IBM is pushing to have the GPFS software used on other platforms, including through an initiative that offers some clients access to the softwares source code with the idea that they may adapt it to work on non-IBM hardware.

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