IBM Updates Supercomputer for Business

FRAMINGHAM (07/21/2000) - Big Blue is rolling out a new RS/6000 supercomputer that will handle complex tasks faster than before.

The AIX-based RS/6000 SP is best known as the computer that foiled chess master Garry Kasparov in a much-publicized set of matches several years ago.

Typically, the SP comes as a set of boxes, each containing a CPU. These individual nodes sit in a cabinet and are connected by a high-speed switch, which schedules tasks among the nodes. The SP is generally only used for complex scientific, modeling or business intelligence applications.

On Monday, IBM Corp. is expected to announce improved node performance and SP switching technology for companies and universities.

This new system already debuted as "ASCI White," a 512-node supercomputer capable of 12.3 trillion operations per second, making it 1,000 times more powerful than the Deep Blue computer that tangled with Kasparov. IBM recently delivered the computer to the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California, where it will do complex nuclear explosion simulations for the Department of Energy.

Now, IBM will be rolling out for commercial availability nodes and communications gear at the level of ASCI White. The offering includes the SP Switch2, which will run data between the nodes at a peak of 500M byte/sec, an improvement over the current SP Switch, which can handle 150M byte/sec. The two switches can't be used in the same SP configuration, IBM says.

Big Blue also will offer an improved node, the 375-MHz POWERIII-II RS/6000, which will have up to 16 CPUs, twice as many as previous SP nodes. The CPUs also will contain copper wiring, allowing them to run cooler and with less energy consumption than typical CPUs with aluminum innards. The new node will have up to 64G bytes of memory, up from 16G bytes.

Also coming is a mixed hardware-operating system feature called CPU Gard. This will take a failing CPU offline and make sure it stays down when the machine reboots, preventing it from crashing a node or corrupting data.

The new node and switch will be available by Aug. 31. Pricing starts at US$190,000 for a four-CPU entry-level system.

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