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The company said the open source Linux operating system was selected because it offers flexibility and has a large base of developers and contributors to help solve challenges as they arise.
"We had two choices of operating systems for the Blue Gene family, either use a special purpose system or Linux," said Bill Pulleyblank, director of Exploratory Server Systems at IBM Research. "We saw considerable advantage in using an operating system supported by [the] open source community so that we can get their input and feedback."
Takako Yamakura, a spokesman for IBM Research, said the early focus in the Blue Gene project was on hardware. But as Blue Gene has evolved, the operating system has received more attention from engineers - leading to the official designation by IBM of Linux as the operating system of choice.
The most recent addition to the Blue Gene family is the Blue Gene/L supercomputer being built by IBM and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. The machine will be at least 15 times faster and 15 times more power-efficient than today's fastest supercomputers, but will take up only a fraction of the space.
The original Blue Gene supercomputer is expected to be complete by 2004, while Blue Gene/L is expected to be ready the following year.
Blue Gene/L is expected to operate at about 200 trillion floating-point operations per second - larger than the total computing power of the top 500 supercomputers in the world today, according to IBM. Blue Gene/L will also include IBM systems that allow complex computers to do self-repairing, self-managing and self-configuring, making them easier to manage and set up.
For IBM, the latest Blue Gene/L project is designed to demonstrate commercial uses for the powerful machines so the company can market that end of its research for additional sales.