IBM, Rensselaer Team on Supercomputing Center

The Blue Gene-based $100 million facility will focus on nanotechnology research.

IBM, which already has four of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world, is working with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to create the fastest machine in an educational institution.

IBM and Rensselaer announced May 10 a $100 million partnership to build a supercomputing center on the schools campus and Rensselaer Technology Park, both in Troy, N.Y. The planned Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations will help reduce the costs and time for developing nanoscale systems and devices, said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.

"Were going to create the worlds most powerful, university-based supercomputing center," she said at a press conference announcing the initiative.

The supercomputer will be made up of Blue Gene supercomputers from IBM, as well as Linux clusters based on IBMs Power architecture and systems running on Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processor. It will offer more than 70 teraflops (or 70 trillion operations per second).

The center, which is expected to be in operation by the end of the year, will offer a host of research capabilities in the area of nanotechnology. The science investigates ways to build devices and circuits from atoms and molecules.

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Jackson said that as the sizes of computer chips get smaller—most are about 64 nanometers in width and will eventually shrink to 22 nm by 2015—the need for greater simulation capabilities increases.

The center will not only benefit students and researchers at the university, but also outside companies, she said, and bring 300 to 500 jobs into the area.

IBM has built the two fastest supercomputers based on Blue Gene, a supercomputing design aimed at offering massive amounts of performance while consuming less energy and floor space than other powerful systems. Blue Gene costs about $2 million per rack, with each rack holding 1,024 processors.

Initially aimed at high-performance computing, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., has since commercialized Blue Gene and also rents access to a Blue Gene computer via its hosted Deep Computing Capacity on Demand program.

According to the latest Top 500 list of the worlds fastest supercomputers—released in November 2005—the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratorys Blue Gene/L supercomputer is No. 1, with a speed of 280.6 teraflops. The system, in the University of California-Berkeleys lab in Livermore, Calif., uses 131,072 processors and is about the size of a big-screen television.

The second-ranked supercomputer is a Blue Gene system at IBMs Thomas Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., with a speed of 91.2 teraflops. The third fastest, the IBM ASCI Purple pSeries 575, also in the Livermore lab, has a speed of 63.4 teraflops.

The Blue Gene/L system at the Netherlands Foundation for Radio Astronomy, or ASTRON, ranked ninth on the list, which is compiled twice a year on the independent Web site. The next list will be released in June at the International Supercomputer Conference in Dresden, Germany.

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