IBM puts Blue Genes up for sale

Hip and powerful

Get ready to pony up; IBM is delivering the future of computing - now.

IBM has eagerly turned its Blue Gene supercomputing experiment into an actual product, putting the system on sale at starting price of $1.5m. You'll be expected to pay significantly more for a fully-equipped, usable machine, but the price tag gives an idea of where Blue Gene stands in IBM's arsenal. The system, which runs on a specialized version of IBM's Power chip, is aimed at the most serious high performance computing tasks and has already been picked up by national labs and research institutions.

IBM has been on a Blue Gene marketing binge of late and with good reason. The system is expected to take the top spot on a new list of the world's fastest supercomputers. A version of Blue Gene managed to crank out 70.7 trillion calculations per second (or teraflops), beating out a new machine from SGI and the old number one - Earth Simulator - from NEC.

One of the most interesting features of Blue Gene is that the system runs on sub-GHz processors. IBM's use of low frequency chips goes against much of the current supercomputing momentum where customers cobble together very fast servers to make high performance clusters.

By using slower chips, IBM has been able to keep power consumption and heat production low on Blue Gene, which has, in turn, made it possible to design a system that can fit in a relatively small space. IBM appears to be pioneering a new type of design that other computer/processor makers such as Sun Microsystems and Intel hope to mimic down the road. All three companies have revealed plans to put numerous low frequency cores on a single piece of silicon and then surround these chips with loads of memory instead of producing single core chips with high clock rates.

IBM, however, is clearly well ahead of the competition, as it is already delivering a commercial version of this architecture.

IBM will sell Blue Gene in a variety of configurations from 1 to 64 racks of servers. Each rack holds 1024 dual-processor systems and can churn out 5.7 teraflops. The basic Blue Gene system takes up only 3ft. by 3ft. by 6ft. of space. ®

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