IBM details Blue Gene supercomputer

IBM is shedding light on a program to create the world's fastest supercomputer, illuminating a dual-pronged strategy, an unusual new processor design and a leaning toward the Linux operating system.

"Blue Gene" is an ambitious project to expand the horizons of supercomputing, with the ultimate goal of creating a system that can perform one quadrillion calculations per second, or one petaflop. IBM expects a machine it calls Blue Gene/P to be the first to achieve the computational milestone. Today's fastest machine, NEC's Earth Simulator is comparatively slow--about one-thirtieth of a petaflop--but fast enough to worry the United States government that the country is losing its computing lead to Japan. "Blue Gene is a completely oddball, you've-never-seen-anything-like-this-before design," said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice. "It is not custom everything, (but) it is still very exotic compared to anything you can buy."

IBM has begun building the chips that will be used in the first Blue Gene, a machine dubbed Blue Gene/L that will run Linux and have more than 65,000 computing nodes, said Bill Pulleyblank, director of IBM's Deep Computing Institute and the executive overseeing the project. Each node has a small chip with an unusually large number of functions crammed onto the single slice of silicon: two processors, four accompanying mathematical engines, 4MB of memory and communication systems for five separate networks.

Joining Blue Gene/L is a second major experimental system called "Cyclops," which in comparison will have many more processors etched onto each slice of silicon--perhaps as many as 64, Pulleyblank said. In addition, IBM probably will use the Linux operating system on all the members of the Blue Gene family, not just Blue Gene/L. "My belief is that's definitely where we're going to go," Pulleyblank said.

News source: C|net

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