IBM has extended its computing-on-demand strategy into supercomputing and made its first sale to London-based oil services company Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS).
Supercomputing on demand enables companies to buy supercomputing power from IBM as required, which cuts back on fixed purchase costs and system management.
PGS, which provides geo-physical services to oil companies, is the first company to take advantage of the new service. It expects to save about $1.5m (£934m) this year by avoiding further equipment leasing.
"This is a way for PGS to break away from the fixed-price model," Chris Usher, president of worldwide data processing at PGS, told vnunet.com.
"It lets us custom-fit our computer capacity to the business requirement."
The initial contract only covers a three-month period and will serve as a top-up to PGS's existing supercomputing capacity. But Usher said that there was potential to use this method to replace existing systems as their leases expired.
"The three-month period is typical in the petroleum industry so we are quite comfortable," said Dave Turek, IBM's vice president for Linux clusters and grid computing.
He said that in contrast to outsourcing, companies in the oil industry preferred to keep hold of some skills.
"In this industry the skill level is very high so there is a different strategy to outsourcing, as the company will retain its core competency," he said.
IBM was helping to optimise the use of compute cycles for the specialist application, and the idea was "resonating with tremendous velocity inside the petroleum industry", Turek said.
The equipment being used is an IBM 1350 Linux cluster with 384 nodes, each made up of two-way Intel Pentium P4 symmetrical multiple-processors and 256MB of memory.
IBM plans to build multiple centres around the world to meet the expected demand, and link them by grid technology.
"This will help us manage the overall resource and makes the number of nodes quite elastic," said Turek.
PGS is also looking at grid technology to link its 10 main IBM and Silicon Graphics supercomputers spread around the world.
The company takes raw seismic data and refines it in stages into mapping images for the oil companies. This process requires very high computing power but demand for the service varies.
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