Europe's most powerful supercomputer unveiled

IBM and the Spanish government have introduced a new supercomputer they hope will be the most powerful in Europe, and one of the...

IBM and the Spanish government have introduced a new supercomputer they hope will be the most powerful in Europe, and one of the 10 most powerful in the world.

Called MareNostrum, the supercomputer uses a cluster of 2,520 eServer BladeCenter JS20 systems running the Linux operating system. IBM expects it to be the first supercomputer to attain a top-10 ranking using blade server technology.

IBM and Spain's ministry of education and science are building MareNostrum to help with scientific and industrial research into the human body, meteorology, environment and industrial processes. The system will move from its current location, an IBM facility in Madrid, to its permanent home at Barcelona's Polytechnic University by the end of the year.

The system currently comprises 3,564 PowerPC processors but will have 4,564 by the time it is fully completed.

IBM expects peak performance to reach 40Tflops. The computer has already achieved a sustained performance of 20.53Tflops, with a peak performance of 31.36Tflops, according to the company.

MareNostrum's unveiling comes days before the Top500 Supercomputer Sites list is released tomorrow. IBM hopes the list will confirm its ranking predictions for MareNostrum.

The company said MareNostrum's use of blade technology had produced significant cost savings, but gave no figures to back this up. 

"This is certainly a cheaper technology to pull together and will help advance Spain as a research and development centre," said IBM deep computing sales manager Caroline Isaac.

MareNostrum occupies a floor area of 160 square metres - less than 5% of the footprint of Earth Simulator, the current number-one supercomputer. According to IBM, MareNostrum requires only 600 kilowatts of power and does not need additional cooling systems.

"It doesn't require water cooling, and in terms of total cost of ownership that's as cheap as it gets," Isaac said.

Scientists are hoping to use the supercomputer for research into the life sciences and health care, including studies in environmental changes, the human genome and natural disasters. Industrial and management processes for business applications in the aerospace, automobile and pharmaceutical industries are also anticipated.

Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service

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