IBM Corp [IBM] has unveiled its Blue Gene/L supercomputer, a scaled down version of the original million-processor, 1 petaflops Blue Gene supercomputer.
In November 2002, IBM won a $290 million contract to build a Blue Gene machine that runs a stripped down version of the Linux operating system for the US government’s Department of Energy and to build the ASCI Purple supercomputer, which is based on IBM’s forthcoming Squadron line of Power5 servers.
Blue Gene/L represents about $100 million of that contract, and calls for IBM to deliver a 360 teraflops machine comprised of 65,536 compute processors.
ASCI Purple will be comprised of 196 64-way Squadron servers using dual-core Power5 processors. This machine will have a total of 12,544 processor cores and will use a daisy chain of IBM’s new Federation High Performance Switch (HPS) system interconnection switches to link them all together.
The prototype Blue Gene/L machine that IBM is now showing off will have 256 dual-core Power5 processors in a 21U half-rack, delivering 512 compute nodes (running at 500MHz instead of 700MHz) and a total of 2 teraflops of aggregate computing power.
The full Blue Gene/L machine that will be delivered to Lawrence Livermore in early 2005 will support 16TB or 32TB of main memory. It will occupy 64 racks, take up 2,500 square feet of floor space, will consume 1.5 megawatts of power.
The current goliath of supercomputing is Earth Simulator, built by NEC [NEC] Corp for the Japanese government, which is rated at 40 teraflops, occupying 34,000 square feet of floor space. It consumes 5 megawatts of power, and it cost $350m, or about $8.75 per gigaflops.
ASCI Purple will cost $1.90 per gigaflops, while Blue Gene/L will only cost $0.28 per gigaflops.
ASCI Purple will consume 4.7 megawatts of power, and deliver only 21,275 flops per watt. Blue Gene/L will beat them all, delivering a stunning 240,000 flops per watt. That means Blue Gene/L will take a lot less money to run and cool than these other monsters.
However, IBM is not quite ready to commercialize Blue Gene/L. While it is optimistic that the performance of Blue Gene will scale, there is a big difference in testing a 512-node cluster and a 65,653-node cluster.
This project could upset whatever plans IBM has for Power5 and Power6 servers, especially after the numbers the IBM Research team behind Blue Gene/L become widely known.
Even customers who only want a few hundred gigaflops or a few teraflops of power are going to want the kind of bang for the buck that the designers of the Blue Gene/L prototype are bragging about.
This article was based on material originally published by ComputerWire.