IBM touts Linux-based supercomputer

On Tuesday, the university and IBM announced the new Linux supercomputer, which will be made up of two IBM Linux clusters and capable of conducting approximately two trillion calculations per second (two teraflops). The clusters will include more than 600 IBM eServer xSeries servers running Linux and hooked together using Myricom's Myrinet cluster interconnect network.

The first cluster is expected to be installed in February and will be based on IBM's eServer x330 thin servers, each powered by two 1GHz Intel Pentium III processors and running Red Hat Linux. IBM will install the second cluster in June, which will use Intel's forthcoming 64-bit Itanium processor and will run TurboLinux's version of Linux.

When talking with engineers or his computer science colleagues, Dan Reed, director of the NCSA and the National Computational Science Alliance, said he finds that a lot of research and development work is being done on Linux clusters.

"It is driven by price-performance and availability of software," Reed said. "It's a real attraction."

The multimillion dollar system will be used by the academic community and also by some of the NCSA's industrial partners, such as J.P Morgan Securities, Sears, Roebuck & Co. and All State Insurance, Reed said. The companies provide the NCSA with a level of funding and gain a certain level of access to the supercomputing centre, he said.

As for academic applications, the new supercomputer may be used for determining the masses of elementary particles, biological calculations, and weather forecasting. The machine is expected to bump the NCSA into the top 10 for academic supercomputers, and possibly the top five, Reed said.