IBM claims that it has built the world's fastest supercomputer - a machine 1000 times more powerful than the Deep Blue computer which beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.
The $110m RS/6000 SP machine, called ASCI (Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative) White, can perform 12.3 trillion operations per second and requires the space the size of two basketball courts, said IBM. It will be used by the US Department of Energy to simulate nuclear explosions and monitor the country's nuclear stockpile by modelling the materials as they age.
ASCI White has 512 nodes, each containing 16 Power3-III processors. The machine's 6.2Tb memory capacity can hold 97,000 more data than a standard 64Mb PC, while its 160Tb storage space can store 16,000 times more information than a computer with a 10Gb hard disk, according to IBM.
The machine's performance is the result of combining fast copper processors with a new switch and sophisticated software, said Jim Jardine, ASCI White's project manager. He explained that the system's 8192 processors use copper wiring technology and the switch connects to each node three times faster than the switch IBM currently sells in its supercomputers.
Nicholas Donofrio, IBM's senior vice president of technology and manufacturing, said: "We could take elements of this system and sell it to other people. Some of the things that might find their way from ASCI White [could be] the switch or the chips that do the memory control."
Richard Partridge, an analyst at DH Brown, said these features are part of Big Blue's product roadmap. "IBM has the government fund the extreme end to make sure all the difficult problems are addressed before it creates products for tasks that are not as difficult as nuclear weapons stockpile management."
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