NEC Targets IBM Supercomputer Status

NEC unveils its SX-9 supercomputer, which has a peak performance of 839 teraflops.

After years of falling behind IBM and other companies in the race to build the worlds fastest supercomputers, NEC is looking to gain back some momentum with a new machine that offers 839 trillion calculations per second.

At the companys Tokyo headquarters, NEC executives unveiled the SX-9, a supercomputer that offers a peak performance of up to 839 teraflops, according to a Oct. 25 statement from the company. This supercomputer is built using a newly developed microprocessor that offers up to 102.4 gigaflops or 102.4 billion floating point operations per second on a single core.

The Associated Press reported that the new SX-9 has not gone through official benchmarking just yet, but if the peak performance holds, it will surpass IBMs Blue Gene/L system at the Department of Energys Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in Livermore, Calif. The Blue Gene/L offers 280.6 teraflops of performance and is ranked first on the current Top 500 Supercomputers list.

The SX-9 will be on display for the first time in North America on Nov. 10 at the start of the SC07 supercomputing expo in Reno, Nev. But even if the new NEC supercomputer knocks IBMs off the list, it might only be a temporary gain, as IBM and Sun Microsystems are now developing machines that look to achieve a petaflop, or one quadrillion calculations per second.

In just the past year, the field of supercomputer computing has changed and the performance these machines can deliver has increased dramatically. When the new Top 500 list was published earlier in 2007, it contained three machines that broke the 100-teraflop mark, while the year before only one supercomputer had reached that mark.

While IBM currently dominates the Top 500 list, having made six of the top 10 machines, NEC with the SX-9 is looking to move up and capture the prestige that comes with cracking the top 10. Currently, NEC ranks 14th on the list, with a supercomputer cluster that uses Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors and is assembled from Sun servers.

The NEC supercomputer at the Earth Simulator Center in Japan ranks 20th on the Top 500 list, which is compiled by the University of Mannheim, the University of Tennessee and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


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The SX-9 is made of individual nodes that can hold up to 16 of the new NEC processors each. To achieve 839-teraflop performance, NEC has to build a machine with a total of 512 nodes that can hold 8,192 processors.

In a statement, NEC said it expects the SX-9 to be used for a variety of research projects, including weather and environmental forecasting, aerospace engineering and design, and fluid dynamics research.


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