Grid Puts Supercomputing at Enterprises Fingertips

For businesses that need more computing power but don't want to buy more boxes to get it, IBM says it has an answer.

For businesses that need more computing power but dont want to buy more boxes to get it, IBM says it has an answer.

The Armonk, N.Y., company earlier this month unveiled its supercomputing-on-demand service, which will let businesses lease computing power from IBM when they need it without having to buy or operate the necessary systems.

IBM has created a facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., that houses the first part of the supercomputer grid, which comprises systems equipped with IBM Power processors and Intel Corp. chips. The grid includes hundreds of IBM eServer p655 Unix systems that can hold as many as 128 Power4 chips in a single frame. It also will have a huge Linux cluster with eServer x335 and x345 rack-mounted servers powered by Intel Xeon chips.

Additional hosting facilities will be built around the world later and linked, said David Turek, vice president of supercomputing for IBM.

IBM will work with businesses to get their applications onto the grid—or use IBM applications—and develop security and access policies, Turek said. Customers will be able to access the supercomputing grid over the Internet via a virtual private network.

"The demand [for more computing power] is going to grow quickly, dramatically," Turek said. IBMs service is a way for businesses to make that demand for power a variable cost rather than a fixed one, Turek said.

Supercomputing at Your Service

Facts on IBMs on-demand grid:
  • Will comprise hundreds of eServer p655 Unix systems, each of which can hold up to 128 Power4 processors
  • Will comprise a huge Linux cluster of eServer x335 and x345 rack-mounted systems, which hold Intel Xeon processors
  • The first hosting facility is in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; others around the world will follow
PGS Data Processing, a division of Petroleum Geo-Services Inc., is the first company to access the IBM grid. Chris Usher, president of the division, said the company needed it for a computation-intensive seismic imaging project in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We really like the model," said Usher, in Walton-on-Thames, England. "It gives us a lot of flexibility. Most people have supercomputers already in place, as we do, all over the world."

The problem comes when a company must buy additional computing power when demand peaks but is then forced to watch it sit idle when the need disappears.

"What we can do now is handle those periods as variable costs," Usher said. PGS will use the grid to handle only those peaks for now but may consider longer-term use in the future, he said.

IBMs service is similar to one introduced by PC maker Gateway Inc. last month. The Poway, Calif., company is linking more than 8,000 display PCs in its 272 Gateway Country Stores nationwide to create a grid computing environment that it says will be able to scale to 14 teraflops of performance.