IBM has announced Blue Gene/P, the second generation of the
world's most powerful supercomputer. Blue Gene/P nearly triples the performance
of its predecessor, Blue Gene/L – which also held the title of being the world's
The Blue Gene/P scales to operate continuously at speeds
exceeding one petaFLOP – or one-quadrillion operations per second – and can be
configured to reach speeds in excess of three petaflops.
The performance jump from Blue Gene/L and Blue Gene/P is due
to several factors. In hardware, the Blue Gene/P supercomputer doubles
the number of processors per chip, with each processor operating at a higher
clock speed. More memory is added along with an SMP mode to support multi-threaded
applications. This new SMP mode moves the Blue Gene/P system to a programming
environment similar to that found in commercial clusters. The system’s software
is also upgraded for Blue Gene/P with refinements to system management,
programming environment and applications support.
"Blue Gene/P marks the evolution of the most powerful
supercomputing platform the world has ever known," said Dave Turek, vice
president of deep computing, IBM. "A new group of commercial users will be
able to take advantage of its new, simplified programming environment and
unrivaled energy efficiency. We see commercial interest in the Blue Gene
supercomputer developing now in energy and finance, for example. This is on
course with an adoption cycle – from government labs to leading enterprises –
that we've seen before in the high-performance computing market."
Four IBM PowerPC 450 processors running at 850 MHz are
integrated on a single Blue Gene/P chip, with each chip capable of 13.6 billion
operations per second. A two-foot-by-two-foot board containing 32 of these
chips churns out 435 billion operations every second, making it more powerful
than a typical, 40-node cluster based on two-core commodity processors.
Thirty-two of the compact boards comprise the 6-foot-high racks. Each rack runs
at 13.9 trillion operations per second, 1,300 times faster than today's fastest
The one-petaFLOP Blue Gene/P supercomputer configuration is
a 294,912-processor, 72-rack system harnessed to a high-speed, optical network.
The Blue Gene/P system can be scaled to an 884,736-processor, 216-rack cluster
to achieve three-petaflop performance – though a standard Blue Gene/P
supercomputer configuration will house 4,096 processors per rack.
Not only is the Blue Gene/P designed to be blazingly fast,
it is also energy efficient. IBM says that the Blue Gene/P supercomputer is at
least seven times more energy efficient than any other supercomputer today.
The power of the Blue Gene/P could be applied to the medical
field, such as modeling an entire human organ to determine drug interactions,
for example. Drug researchers could run simulated clinical trials on 27 million
patients in one afternoon using just a sliver of the machine's full power.
Some of the world's leading research laboratories and universities
have already placed orders for Blue Gene/P supercomputers. The U.S. Dept. of
Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., will deploy the first Blue
Gene/P supercomputer in the U.S. beginning later this year.