NASA turns to IBM for supercomputing

NASA has selected an IBM supercomputer for evaluating next-generation technology to meet the agency's future high-performance computing requirements, agency officials said earlier this week.

Supercomputers play a critical role in many NASA missions, including new space vehicle design, global climate studies and astrophysics research.

The IBM System p575+ is being installed at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., where it is being tested and evaluated.

The system features 640 computational cores and has a peak performance of approximately 5.6 teraflops. A teraflop is a measure of a computer's speed. One teraflop is expressed as a trillion floating-point operations per second.

The IBM systems will augment the agency's existing Columbia system, which is based on technology from SGI. Columbia is currently ranked as the eighth-fastest supercomputer in the world.

NASA's high-end computing needs are expected to continue to grow during the next few years, said Dr. Piyush Mehrotra, who leads the NAS applications group and is overseeing the technology upgrade effort. 'We need to keep pace with improved technologies,' he said.

The NAS facility supports scientists and engineers throughout the United States who work on projects such as designing spacecraft, improving weather and hurricane models and examining the behavior of the sun, NASA officials said. Many NASA projects require large, complex calculations and sophisticated mathematical models that can be handled efficiently only by a supercomputer.

The IBM p575+ supercomputer is the first of a four-phase procurement process that might eventually replace the Columbia supercomputer system, Mehrotra said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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