IBM to supply new US Navy supercomputer

The U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office has bought an IBM Corp. supercomputer that's six to eight times faster than its existing...

The US Naval Oceanographic Office has bought an IBM supercomputer that is six to eight times faster than its existing systems and will be used to improve the accuracy of its oceanographic and weather forecasting systems.

The system uses about 3,000 Power4+ processors running the AIX Unix operating system and has a peak rated speed of about 20tn floating-point operations per second (Tflops). It is set to go online in September and will allow the military to run larger and more detailed weather and ocean models, including one that covers the earth's surface.

The supercomputer will also be able to handle more disparate data generated by buoys, satellites and other sources, said Steve Adamec, director of the Naval Oceanographic Office's Major Shared Resource Centre.

Instead of looking at data every six miles, the new system will allow Naval researchers to examine data at three-mile intervals - a leap that takes as much as eight times the computing power as presently available,  said Adamec.

The naval supercomputing facility runs a variety of high-performance systems, including those using IBM Power3 and Power4 chips, as well as systems made by Cray, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics. Combined, those systems offer about 10Tflops, said Adamec.

A number of suppliers had bid on the project, he said, and IBM was chosen because its applications performed well in the environment. The purchase price wasn't disclosed, but IBM characterised the deal as costing "tens of millions of dollars".

The system is the US defence department's largest computer, according to Navy and IBM officials. Debra Goldfarb, a vice-president in IBM's deep computing division, said the system may rank among the top five supercomputers in the world.

Patrick Thibodeau writes for ComputerWorld

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