No faded glory

No faded glory

Old supercomputers don't just fade away.

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

weather simulations.

"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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Tags recyclingold technologywaste disposal

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