Supercomputer is super-available

By Bob Freund

IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer now has become a super-product.

The Rochester-made machine, which last week claimed to be the fastest on the planet, this morning was released to anyone with at least $1.5 million who can use a supercalculator in the office.

IBM Corp.'s factory at Rochester will manufacture the supercomputers, which formally are known as the "eServer Blue Gene." They will be built by current workers on existing assembly lines, IBM's Midwestern spokesman Scott Cook said this morning.


Because the computer is built in modules, a customer can buy just a single rack of processors, able to process 5.7 trillion operations per second. Or, like first customer Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the buyer could add enough modules to reach 360 teraflops (trillion operations per second).

IBM has sold at least five Blue Gene behemoths so far to government and research institutions. Now it is opening up the market to what might be called the general business public.

In another marketing gambit, IBM also plans to open a center in Rochester allowing customers to temporarily use, or lease space on, a Blue Gene supercomputer. It's aimed at infrequent users, such as those who must do a complex calculation occasionally, but don't need to buy and maintain their own systems, Cook said.

The current supercomputer, called Blue Gene/L for one anticipated use in deciphering biological puzzles, was designed primarily by IBM scientists in New York, and is being assembled by IBM's contract engineering group in Rochester.

Cook said the manufacturing is being done here because of the engineering expertise in the processor that makes it so fast, the PowerPC.

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