IBM, Sun Look to Leave a 'Petaflop' Mark in Supercomputing

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2007-06-26 Email Print this article Print

Both companies are introducing new systems aimed at breaking the "petaflop" barrier.

IBM and Sun Microsystems are looking to bring supercomputing into the "petaflop" era.

The two IT giants will detail the specifics behind their new supercomputer systems to the audience attending the 2007 International Supercomputer Conference in Dresden, Germany, which kicks off June 26—two systems that promise to break the petaflop barrier in terms of performance. A petaflop equals 1 quadrillion calculations per second.

By contrast, IBM's Blue Gene/L system, which is installed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., offers 280.6 teraflops, or 280.6 trillion calculations per second, and sits on top of the current Top 500 supercomputer list. Members of the ISC are expected to announce the updated Top 500 supercomputer list later this week, and Big Blue is expected to retain the top spot.

James Staten, principal analyst for IT infrastructure and operations research at Forrester Research, saw an early demonstration of Sun's new supercomputer—the Constellation—and called the new system "an impressive, very powerful system."

However, Staten said, while companies such as Sun and IBM use events like the ISC to impress industry watchers and one another with their technical achievements, the market for such massive computing systems is small.

Click here to read more about last year's list of the world's Top 500 supercomputers.

"It also represents a measure of one-upsmanship, to be sure," Staten said. "All these companies—Sun, IBM, [Hewlett-Packard], Cray and others—are always trying to outdo themselves, and that's fine—that's capitalist business. Frankly, there aren't that many customers for computers like this anywhere around the world."

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