IBM has just announced the arrival of Blue Gene/P, the newest and fastest supercomputer around. How fast? Well Blue Gene/P just about triples the performance of Blue Gene/L, which currently holds the official title of the world’s fastest computer.
The IBM System Blue Gene/P Solution is designed to operate continuously at speeds exceeding one “petaflop” or one-quadrillion operations per second if you prefer. That is 100,000 times more powerful than an average home PC, and means that drug researchers could run simulated clinical trials on 27 million patients in one afternoon using just a fraction of the machine’s power. IBM claims it can process more operations in one second than the combined power of a stack of laptop computers nearly 1.5 miles high.
Not least because Blue Gene/P can be configured to reach speeds in excess of three petaflops.
With Blue Gene, the IBM design team has sidestepped two key constraints on state-of-the-art supercomputing, namely power usage and space requirements. It has been purpose-built to fit in smaller spaces and use less electricity compared to other commercially available supercomputer designs. The end result is a machine that is, according to IBM, “at least seven times more energy efficient than any other supercomputer.” The breakthrough Blue Gene design uses many small, low-power chips each connected through five specialized networks inside the system.
Four IBM (850 MHz) PowerPC® 450 processors are integrated on a single Blue Gene/P chip. Each chip is 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. The one-petaflop Blue Gene/P configuration is a 294,912-processor, 72-rack system harnessed to a high-speed, optical network. Blue Gene/P can be scaled to an 884,736-processor, 216-rack cluster to achieve three-petaflop performance. A standard Blue Gene/P configuration will house 4,096 processors per rack.
There are some key differences between Blue Gene/L and Blue Gene/P. In hardware, Blue Gene/P moves to more (four vs. two) and speedier (850 MHz vs. 700 MHz) processors per chip; more memory and an SMP mode to support multi-threaded applications. This new SMP mode moves Blue Gene/P to a programming environment similar to that found in commercial clusters. Blue Gene/P dramatically scales up collective network performance to minimize common bottlenecks inherent in large parallel-computing systems. Software marks the third key upgrade for Blue Gene/P -- system management, programming environment and applications support have all been refined in Blue Gene/P.
Blue Gene’s operating system is based on open-source Linux. Applications are written in common languages such as Fortran, C and C++ using standards-based MPI communications protocols.