IBM Delivers 'Teraflop in a Box'

IBM has unveiled what it dubs a "Teraflop in a box." Big Blue's researchers have engineered a prototype supercomputer roughly the size of a 30-inch television set and capable of 2 teraflops, or 2 trillion mathematical operations per second. Its capacity to crunch numbers has earned IBM the 73rd spot on the Top500 Supercomputer project's cumulative list of the world's fastest computers.

The full scale Blue Gene/L machine, being built for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is expected by IBM to top the list when work is complete in 2005. The recent announcement is simply the precursor for this much more ambitious goal, and a showcase of the fruit of IBM's research and development efforts.

According to IBM, once completed, Livermore's machine will be six times faster than today's fastest super computers, consume 1/15 the power per computation, and be up to 10 times more compact. The finished machine will fill the space of half a tennis court.

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"Blue Gene's entry onto the Top500 list marks a fracture in the history of supercomputing -- it will revolutionize the way supercomputers and servers are built and broaden the kinds of applications we can run on them," said William Pulleyblank, director of exploratory server systems at IBM Research.

Pulleyblank continued, "This is a major milestone for the Blue Gene family of supercomputers and a scientific achievement resulting from IBM's sustained commitment to exploratory research."

By reducing power consumption, cost, and space requirements, IBM researchers are seeking to bring massively parallel computing within a feasible cost for take up by science and industry.

Recently, Microsoft tapped IBM to power its next generation Xbox video game console, joining the ranks of competitors Nintendo and Sony as IBM customers. To draw a comparison between consumer applications of IBM’s technology and heavy computing, the prototype Blue Gene contains 1,000 microprocessors based upon Power 5 microchip technology.

Power 5 will debut with a performance boost of roughly 40 percent over its predecessor, according to an August interview BetaNews conducted with Joel Tendler, IBM's Director of Technology. Other improvements in line for Power 5 include simultaneous multi-threading and dynamic power management.

Sony, the market leader of the gaming space, is cooperating with Toshiba and IBM to nurture the design of its core for the PlayStation 3, a "supercomputer on a chip" code-named "Cell."

Many of the designs are rumored to be grid friendly; grid is a powerful variation of distributed computing.

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