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Euro supercomputer network boots up

A new pan-European supercomputing network has opened to help scientists in the EU with their research.

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A new pan-European supercomputing network has opened to help scientists in the EU with their research.

"We have just completed testing," said David Henty of the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, a member of the Distributed European Infrastructure for Supercomputing Applications (DEISA) consortium. "Our new supercomputing network is now open for business."

Launched in May and part-funded by the EU, DEISA consists of eight national supercomputing centres in Europe. Its mission is to jointly build and operate a distributed terascale supercomputing facility aimed not only at supporting research across a broad range of science and technology, but also at advancing European computer science, especially in the area of grid technology.

In the current first phase, four of the centres have linked their IBM supercomputers togethers, providing more than 4,000 processors that can achieve processing speeds above 22 teraflops (a teraflop is a trillion calculations per second).

In the second phase, expected to begin next year, at least two more centres will connect their supercomputers, adding several more teraflops of processing power. In addition, DEISA's dedicated network will be upgraded from its current transmission speed of 1Gbps to 10Gbps.

The consortium is in talks with Spain's supercomputing centre at Barcelona University, which will soon have a new supercomputer. "The Spanish centre would add substantial power to our supercomputing network," said Henty.

Last week, IBM and the Spanish government introduced a new supercomputer, the MareNostrum, which they say will be the most powerful in Europe and among the 10 most powerful in the world. MareNostrum currently comprises 3,564 PowerPC processors but will have 4,564 processors by the time it is fully completed.

For now, though, Europe's four initial supercomputing centres - two in Germany, one in France and another in Italy - will rely on their installed base of lower-performance IBM computers, including the P690, P690+ and P655 models.

Although IBM plays a big role in DEISA, next year a Dutch centre is scheduled to hook up its Silicon Graphics Altix supercomputer equipped with 416 Itanium processors.

The new supercomputing facilities are aimed at European researchers working in several key areas of science and technology, including materials science, cosmology, plasma physics, industrial fluid dynamics and the life sciences, including biotechnology.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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