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IBM Takes Over Supercomputer Lead

Since you know I have a passion for the tech side of things, you may recall supercomputing technologies were once viewed as a sign of ingenuity and pride as far back as two decades ago. Then, of course, record supercomputing speeds were set typically by American machines. That changed two years ago, when a Japanese supercomputer took the speed title from America.

An IBM machine built in America recently retook that speed "title" back from the Japanese. The American computer was based on the BlueGene/L technology that recently attained a sustained performance of some 36 trillion calculations a second. That eclipsed the top mark of 35.86 teraflops reached in 2002 by the Japanese-built Earth Simulator in Yokohama. The new speed was reached during internal testing at IBM's production center in Rochester, Minn.

The new system is notable because it packs its computing power much more densely than other large-scale computing systems. BlueGene/L is one-hundredth the physical size of the Earth Simulator and consumes one twenty-eighth the power per computation, IBM said.

That one-time "speed bump" had much to do, according to federal officials, with sagging investments in high-performance computing that might leave the U.S. vulnerable to tech competition for industries ranging from materials science to biotech.

A large-capacity version of the BlueGene/L system is scheduled to be installed early next year at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. That machine will have about 130,000 processors, compared to the 16,000-processor prototype that set the speed record.

Wilmington Star-News September 29, 2004

Wired September 29, 2004

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