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NASA splashes out on shiny supercomputer

Courtesy of SGI and Intel

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NASA has asked Silicon Graphics (SGI) and Intel to build a Linux-based supercomputer to support its research into space exploration, climate change and aerospace engineering.

The new supercomputer, the Space Exploration Simulator, will increase NASA's computing power by factor of ten. The machine will be powered by a total of 10,240 Itanium 2 processors, 20 512-processor SGI Altix systems, and a 500-terabyte (and perhaps misleadingly named) SGI InfiniteStorage "storage solution", making it one of the largest Linux-OS based machines in the world, according to SGI.

It is also indicative of a trend away from bespoke supercomputers to a more off-the-shelf approach. Recently, IBM, known worldwide for its proprietory DeepBlue supercomputers, has also experimented with a more standardised approach with its BlueGene prototype - a supercomputer built from readily available components.

Intel CEO Craig Barrett says that exploring the universe is one of Man's greatest remaining challenges. "The 'Project Columbia' supercomputer...will enable the world's brightest designers and scientists to look a little deeper and reach a little farther in their understanding of, and achievements in, space," he said.

In addition to research into exploration of space, the supercomputer will crunch numbers for shuttlecraft designers and those investigating the human impact on weather patterns. NASA will also make some time on the machine available to other researchers, in response to a recommendation from the Office of Science and Technology Policy. ®

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