IBM to build world's most powerful Linux computer

A Japanese national research laboratory has placed an order with IBM for a supercomputer cluster which, when completed, is...

A Japanese national research laboratory has placed an order with IBM for a supercomputer cluster which, when completed, is expected to be the most powerful Linux-based computer in the world.

The order, from Japan's National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), was announced by IBM earlier today as it simultaneously launched the eServer 325 system on which the cluster will be largely based.

The eServer 325 is a 1U rack mount system that includes two Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors of either model 240, 242 or 246.

The supercomputer ordered by AIST will be built around 1,058 of these eServer 325 systems, to make a total of 2,116 Opteron 246 processors, and an additional number of Intel servers that include a total of 520 of the company's third-generation Itanium 2 processor, also known as Madison.

The Opteron systems will, collectively, deliver a theoretical peak performance of 8.5 trillion calculations per second while the Itanium 2 systems will add 2.7 trillion calculations per second to that for a total theoretical peak performance for the entire cluster of 11.2 trillion calculations per second.

That would rank it just above the most powerful Linux supercomputer, a cluster based on Intel's Xeon processor and run by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US. That machine has a theoretical peak performance of 11.1 trillion calculations per second, according to the latest version of the Top 500 supercomputer ranking.

Based on that ranking, the new machine would mean Japan is home to two out of the three most powerful computers in the world. The current most powerful machine, the NEC-built Earth Simulator of the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, has a theoretical peak performance of 41 trillion calculations per second while that of the second-fastest machine, Los Alamos National Laboratory's ASCI Q, is 20.5 trillion calculations per second.

The eServer 325 can run either the Linux or Windows operating systems and the supercomputer ordered by AIST will run SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8.

IBM said it expects to deliver the cluster to AIST next March. AIST will link the machine with others as part of a supercomputer grid that will be used in research of grid technology, life sciences bioinformatics and nanotechnology.

General availability of the eServer 325 is expected in October, and IBM said prices for the computer start at $2,919. The computers can also be accessed through IBM's on-demand service where users pay for processing power based on capacity and duration.

IBM's announcement is the second piece of good news for AMD and its Opteron processor within the past two weeks. The processor, which can handle both 32-bit and 64-bit applications, was launched in April.

Last week China's Dawning Information Industry said it would build a supercomputer based on AMD's Opteron processor. The Dawning 4000A will include more than 2,000 Opteron processors, with a total of 2Tbytes of RAM and 30Tbytes of hard-disc space, and is expected to deliver performance of around 10 trillion calculations per second.

The Beijing-based company has an order for the machine but has not disclosed the name of the buyer or when the computer will be put into service.

Opteron processors were also chosen for a supercomputer which is likely to displace the AIST machine as the most powerful Linux supercomputer. Cray is constructing a Linux-based supercomputer called Red Storm, which is expected to deliver a peak performance of 40 trillion calculations per second when it is delivered in late 2004.

Linux developer SuSE is also working with Cray on the machine.

Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service

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