Compaq, DOE, biotech firm to build $150 million Linux supercomputer

The U.S. Department of Energy today said its Sandia National Laboratories are teaming up with Compaq Computer Corp. and a biotechnology company to develop a $150 million Linux-based supercomputer that's supposed to be capable of processing at least 100 trillion operations per second.

The Sandia labs and Celera Genomics Group in Rockville, Md., plan to work together on the project under a joint research and development agreement, with Houston-based Compaq as their technology provider. The planned system will be built around future versions of Compaq's AlphaServer SC supercomputer line and is being designed for use in complex applications in the fields of computational biology and life sciences.

However, the system will be a long time in coming. Bill Blake, vice president of high-performance technical computing at Compaq, said the three partners hope to have a prototype machine ready by 2004. That system is expected to deliver performance ranging between 100 and 150 trillion floating point operations per second, Blake said.

The prototype supercomputer will likely use 10,000 to 20,000 of Compaq's Alpha processors and is being budgeted at $150 million in current costs, according to Blake. He added that the first system could eventually lead to the development of a so-called "petacruncher" -- a machine capable of 1,000 teraflops -- by the end of the decade.

Compaq and Sandia, which has facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., said they plant to collaborate on the development of the system hardware and software for the supercomputer. Meanwhile, Celera and Sandia will jointly focus on the development of advanced algorithms for biology research applications and on designing new visualization technologies for analyzing massive quantities of experimental data.

The supercomputer detailed today is just one of several high-performance Linux systems or clusters that have been announced in recent months for use in scientific applications. Earlier this week, for example, IBM and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said they're building a pair of Linux clusters that will provide two teraflops of computing power (see story).

For more coverage of Linux-related matters, head to our Linux News & Features page.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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