Intel's Itanium to power research system

Intel Corp.'s Itanium and McKinley processors will be used in a distributed scientific computing system allowing researchers to analyze, simulate and help solve complex scientific problems, Intel announced Thursday.

The "TeraGrid" computing system will link more than 3,300 Itanium processors and will be capable of more than 13.6 million calculations per second, as well as having the ability to store, access and share more than 450T bytes of information, the company said in a statement.

The system, which is expected to be completed next year, will consist of clustered servers from IBM Corp. running the Linux operating system and will be connected by a high-speed optical network from Qwest Communications International Inc.

In addition to supplying more than 1,000 IBM eServers running Linux, IBM Global Services will do the integration work for the system, said Dan Powers, IBM's director of early stage Internet technology, in a conference call with press and analysts. The cluster will also use IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) software, Powers said.

The completed system will be the world's largest computer running Linux, Dan Reed, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), said in the conference call. TeraGrid will be capable of 8T flops (floating point operations per second), Reed said. "We expect that in time this will grow to 10T flops or beyond," he added.

"This will really eliminate the tyranny of time and distance," he said. "We believe it's the future of computing and it will change the way we do science and engineering research."

TeraGrid is part of a US$53 million award by the National Science Foundation to address complex scientific research, including molecular modeling for disease detection, cures and drug discovery, automobile crash simulations, research on alternative energy sources, and climate and atmospheric simulations for more accurate weather predictions, Intel said.

The largest portion of the system's computing power will be at the NCSA at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The NCSA has three partners that will participate in the project: the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego; the Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Launched in servers and workstations last month, Itanium is Intel's first 64-bit microprocessor and is intended to help the company compete in high-end server markets where systems from the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. dominate. McKinley will be the second chip in the Itanium family, and is due early next year, according to Intel.

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