IBM's famous Roadrunner supercomputing cluster has kicked off a new effort to research treatments for the HIV virus.
The company said that the system, currently housed in the Los Alamos laboratory in California, will process genetic information in an attempt to create a new vaccine.
Roadrunner was launched in June 2008 and quickly staked its claim as the fastest supercomputing system on the planet, and the first to perform more than one trillion operations per second.
The system operates as cluster of IBM BladeCenter modules and is centred on the company's new Cell processor. Roadrunner has already been used to model climate change and map out neuron activity in the human brain.
In its latest project, Roadrunner will analyse some 10,000 genetic sequences collected from HIV patients. Researchers hope that, by breaking down and analysing the genetic data, scientists can develop a vaccine that is able to detect and eliminate the virus in the human body before it has a chance to mutate and spread.
The effort is indicative of the changing roles of supercomputing systems over the past two decades. The machines first emerged in the aftermath of World War II, and the high-performance computing industry was fed largely by the arms races of the Cold War.
In the years since, the use of supercomputing systems has moved to areas such as biomedical research, geographic mapping, and scientific modelling such as for climate and physics simulations.
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