Superman's Other PC

Judging from the reviews, the new movie "Superman Returns" should be a big hit at the box office this summer. Apparently, part of the plot involves arch-villain Lex Luthor stealing the Man of Steel's personal computer—which operates on crystal-based technology developed on the planet Krypton—from his Fortress of Solitude. We're not sure whether he gets his primary PC back or not (no one on staff has seen the movie as yet), but he should have a backup CPU in house to store the priceless data he has, no doubt, collected over the many years he has been on Earth. So, we recommend he consider a Blue Gene from IBM—a supercomputer for a super computer user.

At the 21st International Supercomputer Conference (ISC2006) going on in Dresden, Germany, this week, the famous BlueGene/L was, once again, ranked the fastest, most powerful system on this planet. Moreover, IBM placed five of the top 10 computers on the TOP500 List, as well as half of the ranked 500.

The BlueGene/L being installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), in Livermore, Calif., for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) clocked in at a sustained speed of 136.8 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops) under testing. IBM's own unit, the Watson Blue Gene system, newly installed at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, in Yorktown, N.Y., came in second place with a performance of 91.29 teraflops, making it the world's most powerful privately owned supercomputer.

"The latest list, particularly if you look at the top 10, clearly illustrates the dynamic nature of supercomputing today," said Erich Strohmaier, one of the editors of the TOP500 List and a computer scientist at LLNL. "In just one year, we have seen a dramatic turnover from a ranking topped by the Earth Simulator followed by a number of clusters and two prototypes of IBM's Blue Gene. Today, we see that Blue Gene has gained the first two positions and occupies five of the top 10 slots."

IBM has begun selling commercial versions of the Blue Gene systems, and 16 of these IBM eServer Blue Gene Solution supercomputers placed in the TOP500 rankings, including two new units at Boston University and the Jülich Research Centre, in Germany.

We're not sure what they retail for, but we're guessing that Superman could come up with the necessary funds. (On the other hand, he's only earning a reporter's salary, so he may have to pay in installments.) And he isn't the only super person in the news this week when it comes to supercomputers.

At ISC2006 today, the conference awarded its highest honors to two teams involved in high-performance computing in the area of "application scalability on very large systems." The 2006 ISC Award Winners are:

We congratulate them. Scientists such as these are the real superheroes.

[Editor's Note: We wrote about the Blue Gene/L in this space last October.]


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