IBM, U. of Toronto to Launch Supercomputer

By Reuters  |  Posted 08-14-2008 Print Email
With a total project budget of just under $50 million, the IBM collaboration will be the largest supercomputer outside the U.S.

The University of Toronto and IBM are building Canada's most powerful supercomputer, a mammoth machine that will need its own building for storage and will be capable of performing 360 trillion calculations per second.

It's expected the system will be among the top 20 fastest supercomputers in the world and the largest outside the United States. It will be able to store data equivalent to that held by one million regular DVDs.

The entire budget of the project, which includes construction and operating costs, is just under C$50 million ($47 million) over five years.

Its power is roughly equivalent to "30,000 to 40,000 home computers linked together," said Chris Pratt, strategic initiatives executive at IBM Canada.

"The kind of interconnect between parts of the system will allow the equivalent of two full-length feature DVD movies to be moved around in the space of a second," he said.

It will be a big boost to scientists at the University of Toronto and its associated research hospitals, as it will help tackle projects in an array of areas from aerospace and astrophysics to climate change prediction and medical imaging.

Among the research, the system will be used to explore the modern scientific mystery of why matter has mass and what constitutes the mass of the universe.

Funding is being provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, in partnership with the province of Ontario and the university.

Building the supercomputer will involve the largest implementation of IBM's iDataPlex system, which holds twice as many processors per unit as standard systems and is entirely water-cooled. More than 4,000 servers will be linked together.

"Every aspect of the system has been put together to be the most powerful and yet the most energy-efficient," Pratt said.

A data center will be built just north of Toronto. Installation will begin in the autumn and it's expected the supercomputer will be fully operational by next summer.

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