Rutgers opens new IBM supercomputer to private industry

IBM has won a contract to install a $3.3 million supercomputer at a new technology centre in New Jersey, due to open today, in partnership with Rutgers University.

IBM’s machine, called Blue Gene/P, reports the Wall Street Journal, will be among the most powerful computer systems in the north east of the USA. It has been compared to the gameshow-addicted Watson, which made a splash when it put contestants to shame on TV’s Jeopardy.

It will be different to other installations  as Rutgers university said private companies will be allowed to use the system, including Xerox, Siemens Ag, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Rutgers is hoping that having the system on-site will open the doors to more investment from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

The university is yet to decide how much private companies will have to pay for access.

Blue/Gene P is likely to be used mostly to sort through big data for analysis. Through simulations, supercomputers are able to calculate and answer complex questions far quicker than traditional research methods.

A Palo Alto venture capitalist told the Wall Street Journal that research institutions are going to have to learn to adapt to commercial models. “Universities must start to develop these broad partnerships with industry,” he said.

An IBM spokesperson gave us a few more details on the machine. The two Blue Gene/ P racks at Rutgers will be “far more powerful than any computer at the university today.” Rutgers has decided to call the machine Excalibur, and as future funding is made available, the university plans to add the latest-generation Blue Gene/Q system by the end of the year.

Blue Gene /P has 1024 quad core processors per rack (4096 cores/rack) and runs at 13.9 TFlop/s rack and consumes approximately 27 KWatts/ rack. Rutgers have bought 2 racks, so it runs at around 27 Tflop/s.