Pay-as-you-go supercomputer is first of its kind, IBM says

Friday, March 11th, 2005

Company makes ‘slices’ of Blue Gene computer available to customers

Gillian Shaw


Pssst, wanna buy a slice of a supercomputer?

Starting today, businesses will be able to access the formidable computing power of Blue Gene, the world’s most powerful supercomputer.

As part of the unveiling of its new Deep Computing Capacity on Demand Centre in Rochester, Minn., today, IBM announced it is making Blue Gene available to customers through a secure Virtual Private Network.

It’s the supercomputer version of heading down to your local tool shop to rent a power washer for the weekend. IBM is making Blue Gene time available for as little as $10,000 US, with a $5,000 annual membership fee in IBM’s capacity-on-demand centre.

If that seems a bit pricey consider that Blue Gene, which is sold in racks, costs a minimum of $2 million US for a one-rack machine, which offers the computing equivalent of 2,000 desktop or laptop computers.

“I can start selling you slices of that machine for as little as $10,000 [US],” said David Gelardi, IBM’s vice-president for deep computing capacity on demand. “Now all of a sudden I have taken this very expensive technology and compartmentalized it down to what you might be able to afford in a normal budget.”

Or at least the normal budget for a company or organization involved in such applications as pharmaceutical development, weather forecasting, disease research, petroleum discovery, automotive crash-testing simulation.

IBM says the concept is a first.

“We have been selling more traditional technology for a little over the last 18 months on this pay-as-you-go model, but this is the first time I can think of where anyone in the industry has taken something more exotic — not mainstream, a supercomputer — and made it available on a newly emerging pay-as-you-go model,” said Gelardi.

“I think it is an innovation on top of an innovation.”

Gelardi said that adding Blue Gene to the computing capacity on demand model puts supercomputing power within reach of companies that otherwise couldn’t afford it, or only need it for specific periods of times.

“The nature of the machine really exploits some computer science, and normally a machine like that would be in a national lab and incredibly smart people with PhDs would be running algorithms that can save the world,” said Gelardi. “We are saying you don’t have to worry whether you can afford a machine of your own, we are going to make computing power available to you in a more granular way.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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