Fujitsu may beat IBM with fastest Linux supercomputer

IBM has a challenger in the race to deliver the world's fastest Linux-based supercomputer. A day after the U.S. company said it had received an order for what stands to be the fastest such machine, Japan's Fujitsu has announced an order for a faster machine that it expects to put into service at about the same time.

The Fujitsu computing cluster will contain 2,048 as-yet-unidentified processors and stands to deliver a peak performance of 12.4 trillion FLOPS (floating point operations per second), the company said in a statement on Thursday. Fujitsu received the order from Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken), a governmental research organization that will use the computer mainly in biotechnology research, and delivery is scheduled for March 2004.

IBM said a day earlier that it plans to deliver also in March next year a Linux-based supercomputer to Japan's National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). The IBM machine, based around Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Opteron 246 processors, will have a peak performance of 11.2T FLOPS.

That speed places it just past the current fastest Linux machine in the world, a computer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the U.S. that can manage 11.1T FLOPS. In addition to being the fastest Linux computer, the machine is also the third most powerful supercomputer in the world, according to the latest edition of the Top 500 supercomputer ranking.

The Fujitsu machine ordered by Riken stands to outpace the LLNL and AIST computers, however all three will be overshadowed by an even more powerful Linux-based computer that is expected in late 2004. That computer, called Red Storm and currently under construction by Cray for Sandia National Laboratories in the U.S., is expected to deliver a peak performance of 40T FLOPS.

Its speed is expected to make Red Storm not just the most powerful Linux-based computer in the world but also a contender for the title of most powerful computer in the world. The current title holder is the Earth Simulator, an NEC-built computer in use at Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, which has a peak performance of 41T FLOPS. That's slightly faster than Red Storm, but Sandia has an option to upgrade Red Storm to 60T FLOPS.

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Martyn Williams

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