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4,000 chip lifeline

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Just days after the French government announced it would once again bail out server maker Bull, it awarded Bull what is sure to be a lucrative supercomputing contract .

The French Nuclear Power Agency has picked Bull to build a system capable of hitting 60 teraflops. The computer - named Tera10 - will run on Intel's upcoming dual-core version of the Itanium processor code-named Montecito. It will have more than 4,000 chips - and 8,000 processor cores - tied together, making it a true beast.

The French government plans to use the Tera10 system for nuclear simulations.

Earlier this month, Bull received a $690m bail out package from the government. The hardware maker has been struggling for quite some time and is still trying to pay back a previous bail out of comparable size.

There were no financial terms given for how much the Tera10 system will cost, but all of the chips and storage needed for the computer won't come cheap. The supercomputer will run a custom version of the Linux operating system and use Quadrics' high performance networking technology.

While Itanium has failed to make much headway in the corporate computing market, it has done well in the supercomputing realm. The processor is particularly well-suited to the types of applications run by researchers. Tera10 is one of the first large systems to be announced that will use the Montecito chip.

Bull expects to have the box fully up and running by the end of 2005. Intel, however, has said it doesn't expect Montecito to be produced in volume until 2006. ®

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