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Supercomputer plan takes flight in Saudi Arabia

By Patrick Thibodeau
September 29, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A supercomputer that could rank among the world's most powerful systems will be installed at Saudi Arabia's new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology next year.

The IBM-built system, named Shaheen (Arabic for "peregrine falcon"), is a 16-rack Blue Gene/P system with 65,536 processor cores that deliver speeds of up to 222 TFLOPS.

The supercomputer is being built at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

IBM estimated that Shaheen will be the sixth-fastest supercomputer in the world when it's installed, but the university plans to quickly add capacity, creating a petascale system in two years.

King Abdullah University in Thuwal is due to open in September 2009. Its data center, which will house the supercomputer, is slated to open next summer.

"The best thing about [the new university] is we have no legacy systems and no legacy thinking," said interim CIO Majid Al-Ghaslan.

Al-Ghaslan said researchers will use the supercomputer for a wide range of work in life and physical sciences, including processing and studying data for the country's massive oil fields.

The system will also be used for high-performance computing research, he said.

Officials hope Shaheen will help attract scientists from around the world to the university. "World-class scientists expect world-class facilities," Al-Ghaslan said.

The world's largest supercomputer, IBM's Roadrunner, housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, crossed the petascale mark in June, with 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

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