IBM Unleashes Blue Storm in Europe

Today IBM unveiled plans to construct its most powerful supercomputer to date, surpassing ASCI White –- formerly the world's fastest computer -- by nearly doubling the performance achieved by its predecessor. Once built, the computer will be known by the moniker "Blue Storm," and will have the capacity to execute in excess of 20 trillion calculations per second. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) commissioned IBM to build Blue Storm to improve weather forecasting throughout the continent.

According to IBM's projections, Blue Storm will be roughly 1,700 times faster than the company’s famed "Deep Blue" which defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in a highly publicized 1997 matchup. IBM achieves this level of performance by clustering together multiple eServer p690 (formerly coded named Regatta) enterprise UNIX servers.

Upon completion, Blue Storm will weigh in at 130 tons with storage capacity for 1.5 petabytes of data. Blue Storm will be constructed in two phases. The initial stage begins in early 2002 when IBM will deliver 50 refrigerator sized racks containing over 1000 processors. In 2004, the project will reach its climax when a series of next generation p960's will deliver approximately four times the performance available in 2002.

An IBM spokesperson told BetaNews, "ECMWF's researchers will access Blue Storm via IBM IntelliStation workstations running Linux, while researchers throughout Europe will access the system over a wide-area network."

The company illustrated the power of Blue Storm by offering the analogy that it would take one person with a calculator almost 17 million years to tabulate the number of calculations that Blue Storm will handle in a single second.

The ECMWF receives funding by 22 European nations – representing a broader sampling of states than the European Union. IBM sees the adoption of its technology to predict and model weather in Europe as confirmation of its achievements in the realm of supercomputing. The company claims that this success is mirrored by the top 500 list of the world's fastest computers and recent IDC market research data.

According to a study completed in 2000, IDC shows IBM as having a 40 percent share of the market.

Peter Ungaro, vice president of high performance computing at IBM, told Betanews, "This announcement demonstrates IBM's leadership in technology with Regatta servers and the implementation of that technology in the largest supercomputers used for weather forecasting."

Ungaro went on to detail a list of benefits that Blue Storm would provide that includes more accurate weather forecasts for the general public and interest groups such as farmers – allowing Europe's citizenry to plan picnics or protect crops with fewer headaches.

Additional benefits allow focused severe weather warnings in the event of storms, tornados, and other emergencies. These alerts affect the public welfare in areas ranging from the issuance of evacuations to resource management, when energy producers swap power reserves in preparation for foul weather.

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