IBM recently claimed the top spot on the coveted TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers with a 16 petaflop* system at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In fact, three of the top four fastest supercomputers on the latest TOP500 list are IBM systems.
IBM has a distinguished heritage in supercomputing leadership with a long list of industry breakthroughs. In 1997 the IBM “Deep Blue” system was the first machine to beat a human chess champion. In 2000 the IBM “ASIC White” system reached the performance equivalent of processing an Internet transaction for every person on Earth in less than a minute. In 2008 the IBM “Roadrunner” system was the first supercomputer to achieve performance at the petaflop* level.
There is, however, more to supercomputing leadership than performance and IBM is extremely focused on energy efficiency, particularly since 50 percent of an average air-cooled data center’s energy consumption and carbon footprint is not caused by computing, but by powering the related cooling systems.
IBM recently introduced new technology that eliminates the need for conventional data center air-cooling systems. This hot-water cooling technology directly cools active components in the system, such as processors and memory modules with coolant temperatures that can reach as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit or 45 degrees Celsius.
Supercomputers shaped the world’s perception of IBM’s ability to innovate beyond what is thought possible. Whether it is approaching the computing power of the human brain, surpassing the petaflop barrier, or simply helping mainstream businesses create more competitive products, IBM’s HPC solutions deliver unparalleled value to virtually any organization.
*Petaflop – If the entire population on earth in 2008 – about six billion people – were all working a handheld calculator at the rate of one calculation per second, they would so far have accomplished less than one percent of what a one petaflop (one quadrillion calculations per second) system can do in one day.
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Computers are meant to ease the human effort and we see that supercomputers are able to do things that humans would have taken thousands of years to accomplish. It is nice to reflect that in what way such a power has helped the population of the world at large? I have some thoughts, but I would like to hear the views of the readers first.