Old supercomputers don't just fade away. Instead, they're dismembered, recycled and the bits that can't be reused are melted down or sent to
That's the fate that awaits the Bureau of Meteorology's NEC SX-6
supercomputer when two new machines come online sometime in mid-2009.
BOM has called for expressions of interest from companies capable of
supplying two machines, each capable of three teraflops of sustained
processing power. A desktop calculator operates at about 10 flops,
while the most powerful publicly identified computer is IBM's Blue
Gene/L supercomputer, capable of a peak performance of 360 teraflops.
Blue Gene/L is one of four computers designed by IBM to push the
boundaries of supercomputing into a petaflop range. Blue Gene/L is
used for experiments including modelling protein folding.
BOM will use its machines for an equally complex problem: Real-time
"We will use them for weather modelling at higher resolutions and able
to assimilate more data," said BOM's acting assistant director of
information technology, Philip Tammembaum.
"That's why we have put out a request for information to the industry
looking for potential respondents and indicative costings."
There are only a handful of organisations in Australia using similar
machines to BOM. Defence is understood to have an advanced
supercomputing capability, while the Australian National University
also has supercomputing facilities.
Several film special effects companies have supercomputing abilities,
however they remain cagey about discussing their computational
facilities for competitive reasons.
Mr Tammembaum said the difference between doing computer graphics on a
supercomputer and modelling the weather is that the graphics people
have the luxury of time to market. BOM, on the other hand, has to push
out four predictions every day of the year.
"Generally whatever it is you can do in an hour, that is your
benchmark," he said.
© Fairfax Business Media
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