IBM overtakes Earth Simulator in supercomputer race

IBM Corp. said today that its BlueGene/L supercomputer, which the company is building for the Energy Department, is faster than Japan's Earth Simulator, clocking in at slightly more than 36 teraflops, or trillions of operations per second.

The Earth Simulator, built in 2002 by NEC Corp., runs at 35.86 teraflops, according to Top500.org, an authoritative ranking published by a committee of supercomputing experts.

IBM conducted its own benchmark test of the BlueGene/L system at a lab in Rochester, Minn., using the same Linpack test that Top500.org uses. If independent tests bear out IBM's results, it would mark a significant milestone in a nearly three-year struggle for supercomputing supremacy. The new Top500.org list comes out in November.

When Japan claimed the title of faster supercomputer in 2002, it set off what has been characterized as a space race to build a more powerful system in the United States. Congress conducted hearings and introduced legislation aimed at advancing high-performance computing research and development.

In June, David Turek, IBM's vice president of Deep Computing, told Congress that reclaiming a leadership position in supercomputing was important to "facilitating scientific discovery, business competitiveness and homeland security in a rapidly changing world."

BlueGene/L is not yet finished. It will be officially deployed next year at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, complete with 130,000 processors in 64 server racks. When fully operational, IBM expects BlueGene/L to be capable of a theoretical peak performance of 360 teraflops.

With more than $900 million in prime federal IT revenues, IBM ranked No. 11 on Washington Technology's 2004 Top 100 list.

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