Compaq and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) have won a $45m US government contract to build the world's largest supercomputer for non-classified scientific and engineering research.
The announcement comes on the heels of IBM's $18m deal to build a supercomputer for the US Navy.
The award, from the National Science Foundation, will see Compaq build a powerful supercomputer comparable to those used for classified weapons research at US national laboratories, according to Michael Schneider, PSC's senior science writer.
"Working in partnership with Compaq, we will create a system that enables US researchers to attack the most computationally challenging problems in engineering and science," he said.
The three-year deal is based on PSC's bid to provide a system in 2001 with peak performance of 0.4 teraflops. A six-teraflop device, which will use faster Compaq Alpha microprocessors not yet available, will later evolve from the system.
PSC and Compaq proposed a system architecture that will be capable of processing six trillion mathematical calculations a second at peak speed and a sustained speed of about one trillion calculations.
The brain of the proposed system will be an interconnected network of Compaq AlphaServers - 682 of them, each of which contains four Compaq Alpha microprocessors running Compaq's Tru64 Unix at 1.1Ghz.
The new machine is built on the Beowulf model of constructing supercomputers by clustering commodity PC components that are interconnected by a high-speed network. Beowulfs run Linux and other free software.
Another contract, called the LANL project, for a new nuclear weapons simulation computer is expected to be announced shortly. Topping the list of bidders are SGI, Sun Microsystems and Compaq. Missing from the list is IBM, which declined to bid on the project.
PSC is a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Westinghouse Electric.
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