IBM To Build World’s Fastest Linux Supercomputer

IBM has announced that Japan’s largest national research agency, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), has commissioned the company to build what will be the world’s most powerful Linux supercomputer.

The system will comprise a cluster of 1,058 of IBM’s new eServer 325 systems with 2,636 processors. Specifically, 2,116 of those processors will be AMD Opteron chips, and the rest will be Intel chips.

The computer will run on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 — currently the only operating system capable of using 64-bit Opteron technology — and will be able to perform more than 11 trillion calculations per second.

AIST plans to integrate this new supercomputer with its other non-Linux systems to create a huge distributed computing grid. This grid will allow collaboration between AIST and corporations, government and academia for work on a wide variety of projects.

Good Timing

The supercomputing announcement dovetails with IBM’s planned introduction of its new eServer 325 dual-processor server. IBM (NYSE: IBM) spokesperson Ron Favali told TechNewsWorld that Big Blue had long planned to launch the new server on July 30th, so the timing of AIST’s announcement lined up nicely.

Each eServer 325 comes equipped with a choice of different AMD Opteron processors and can run 32- and 64-bit applications at the same time. The 325 can run either Linux or Windows operating systems.

Gordon Haff, a senior analyst and IT advisor at research firm Illuminata, told TechNewsWorld that using Linux with the Opteron processor is a good fit. Both Linux and the Opteron offer similar price-performance benefits for high-performance computing.

Haff added that IBM’s new rack-mount server, which also will serve as the basis of IBM’s Cluster 1350 offering, should work well for the types of applications that are often split across clustered systems.

SuSE Pleased

SuSE spokesperson Joseph Eckert told TechNewsWorld that his company is pleased with IBM’s and AIST’s announcement.

“It’s pretty amazing that now [AMD] Opteron and SuSE Linux are playing such a big role in supercomputing,” he said. “It comes from [the Linux] ability to cluster and from the 64-bit technology Opteron provides for the computer to do really amazing things.”

However, Eckert noted that, so far, Linux has just scratched the surface of supercomputing. He said the power available in the new 2.6 Linux kernel, expected to debut next spring, will enable a quantum leap in computing power.

Bye Bye Glass Box

Eckert went on to say that the most intriguing part of this collaboration between IBM, AMD and SuSE is that supercomputers are no longer in the realm of the glass room. With the clustering capabilities of Linux and the 64-bit Opteron architecture, companies now may perform calculations for a quite reasonable price.

An individual eServer 325 starts at US$2,919 and should become generally available by October 17th, IBM’s Favali said.

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