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Europe gets first petaflops super

Gauss Genes, anyone?

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The Germans will have bragging rights to the floppiest supercomputer in Europe today as the Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ) is upgrading its Power-based massively parallel supercomputers to break through the petaflops barrier.

IBM is on a BlueGene/P kick lately, and today, it will announce that the German Ministry of Research and the Ministry of Research of Northrhine-Westfalia have kicked in the funds to build a monster BlueGene/P cluster that will be rated with peak performance in excess of 1 petaflops.

The machine, which has not been given a name publicly yet, is the successor to another BlueGene/P box, Jugene, which had 65,536 PowerPC 450 cores clocking in at 850 MHz. Jugene was rated at 222.8 peak teraflops and was housed in 16 racks. The new box will have 294,912 of the same PowerPC cores, which are packed four to a server node in an SMP configuration and will take up 72 racks.

The petaflops FZJ machine, according to IBM, was acquired to be the first supercomputer to be housed in the Gauss Center for Supercomputing, and it will be named at an opening ceremony when the box goes live in mid-2009. For now, I christen the FZJ box Gauss Genes, just to confuse German supermodel Claudia Schiffer. The box will have 144 terabytes of main memory and will consume 2.2 megawatts of juice, yielding 455 megaflops per watt of power efficiency. IBM says that it will have 5.1 GB/sec of network bandwidth, a network latency of 160 nanoseconds, and be linked up to 6 petabytes of storage.

The company also says that the Gauss Genes super will be cooled by a new room-temperature cooling system fitted to the racks that can cut the need for data center air conditioning by 91 per cent. (This may turn out to be the most interesting part of the machine, once its details are revealed).

Just last week, IBM announced that it had sold a BlueGene/P machine, nicknamed Dawn and half the size and performance of Gauss Genes, to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a place where IBM is always able to get hold of government money to build big supers.

The news last week is that LLNL had also signed up for a successor to BlueGene/P that will be based on a future Power technology (probably a 16-way SMP board, or two eight-way SMP boards more like) that will be comprised of 1.6 million processor cores, have 1.6 petabytes of main memory, deliver 20.13 petaflops of peak number-crunching power, and do so at a stunning 3,050 megaflops per watt - a nearly seven-fold increase in power efficiency and 20 times the power of Gauss Genes and 40 times its Dawn sibling. This future box, nicknamed Sequoia, is expected to be delivered in 2011.

All of these BlueGene boxes run Linux, of course. ®

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