IBM sends 10-petaflop supercomputer to US Department of Energy

IBM has done a deal with the US Department of Energy.

It’s giving the department use of its next-generation supercomputer to help  design electric car batteries and study climate change.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory will also use the company’s next-generation Blue Gene supercomputer to get a better understanding of global climate change and explore the evolution of our universe.

Nicknamed “Mira” the 10-petaflop supercomputer is capable of producing over 500 trillion calculations a second. It is 20 times faster than the supercomputer the team is currently using and can run programs at 10 quadrillion calculations per second. It’s built on the next version of IBM’s Blue Gene supercomputer architecture, called Blue Gene/Q.  

It’s a bright spark, according to IBM, which claims a simulation of how a human heart reacts to a medicine would take only two minutes to run on Mira, compared to two years with lesser models. She’s no cheap date with a price tag of  $50 million, plus another $4 million to $5 million annually to pay for her electricity bills.

“We’re not out just to prove that our supercomputer is number one,” Mike Good, software developer for advanced systems at the Rochester plant told eWeek. “We want to come out with systems that are innovative, but also have the ability to solve the world’s problems in a real way.”

The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), which has bought Mira with funds from an $180 million grant,  is already working with potential users as part of the “Early Science Programme”, which has been designed to get researchers working on the most effective ways to leverage the computer’s power as soon as it is installed.

The research lab hopes that Mira will be one of the fastest and most energy efficient supercomputers in the world after its construction and installation are complete, thanks to a combination of chip designs and extremely efficient water cooling. More likely though, the team will stage amateur games of Jeopardy to try flummox the thing.