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Ibm: Envisioning the World's Fastest Supercomputer

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Power7 chip die

Each of the Power7 chip's eight processing cores will execute four threads.

Credit: IBM

IBM will release a new Power7 chip next year that could lead to the development of the world's fastest supercomputer. The IBM Blue Waters project supercomputer will be theoretically capable of achieving 10 petaflops, about 10 times faster than the fastest supercomputer today. As part of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, it will be the largest publicly accessible supercomputer in the world when it is turned on sometime in 2011.

The Power7 chip integrates eight processing cores in one package and each core can execute four tasks, making one Power7 chip a virtual 32-core processor. The new chip uses embedded dynamic random access memory (E-DRAM) instead of standard RAM because E-DRAM uses almost a billion fewer transistors, increasing speed and performance. Although IBM has yet to make a final decision, the chip's speed will be somewhere between three and four gigahertz.

The Blue Waters project is funded by the National Science Foundation and follows a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project that also will use IBM's Power7 chip. Blue Waters will be able to theoretically connect 16,384 Power7 chips for a total theoretical performance of 16 petaflops, although IBM says the actual peak performance will be closer to 10 petaflops. It also will significantly boost the data transfer speeds between nodes. IBM's Ed Seminaro says Blue Waters' transfer rate will be a game changer. "The transfer of data between any of those two nodes in the system is at the full rate of 192 gigabytes per second — peak," Seminaro says.

From CNet
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