The entry-level price is cool US$2.8 million -- pocket change if you're part of the Saudi royal family. That buys you one six-foot server rack filled with 32 processor boards, each of which holds 32 850-MHz quad-core processors based on IBM's PowerPC 450 design. Fully configured, the system is about 1,300 times faster than the best home PC money can buy, Shultz says.
The P also has its green credentials in order, delivering performance per watt that's 66% better than the L. Early P builds already own the top five spots in Green500.org's Green 500 list, which measures energy efficiency in MFLOPS per watt.
As an early adopter you'll be able to hang out with a small vanguard that includes the U.S. Department of Energy, Brookhaven National Lab and the Max Planck Society in Germany.
Best of all, as systems continue to scale upward, you'll be able to keep up with the Joneses without trading in that dusty old supercomputer. Blue Gene/P scales to three and a half PFLOPS. All you do is add another 255 racks to bring the system up to the maximum 1.04 million processors. The cost: a mere 20 cents per megaflop. I'd add that up, but if you have to do the math you probably can't afford it.
So what do you do with all that power? The sky's the limit. You can impress your scientist friends by performing earthquake simulations (what happens in the china cabinet if the epicenter is in your front yard, or 20 miles away?), simulate how your car will do in crashes from all different angles and conditions, examine all possible outcomes from your current situation in Halo, analyze what will happen to your portfolio in 1 million different scenarios, or assess the risk and proper valuation of options to become the low-cost producer and corner the market for those and other complex financial instruments.
As long as your applications are designed to run instructions in parallel and support the industry standard Message Passing Interface, there's no need to worry about investing in new software. "It's very straightforward to recompile it for Blue Gene," says Schultz.
If US$2.8 million is a tad outside of your gift budget, don't worry. IBM plans to offer access to Blue Gene/P as a hosted service in its Deep Computing Capacity on Demand Center in Rochester, Minn. That service, however, won't be available until after the holidays.
Alternately, you could order up time on Blue Gene/L, which is available on demand and -- for now -- still holds the top spot as the world's fastest supercomputer. But that's so last year.
Price: starts at US$2.8 million
Summary: For the geek who has everything, the world's fastest supercomputer is the ultimate gift.
Robert L. Mitchell