IBM computers picked for cancer research

Big Blue will supply the University of Pennsylvania and four hospitals with computers that will link into a computing "grid" to check for breast cancer.

IBM will supply the University of Pennsylvania and four hospitals with computers that will link into a computing "grid" to check for breast cancer, the company will announce Wednesday.

The grid will be used to detect breast cancer in patients, store mammograms in digital form and identify populations that are particularly susceptible, the company said in a statement. The system can be used, for example, to compare a new mammogram to a previous year's image to detect changes.

IBM, along with rivals such as Sun Microsystems and Compaq Computer, have been backing grid computing, which joins computers and storage systems into a large pool of computing power. Initial buyers are researchers in academia and pharmaceutical companies, but IBM believes more mainstream companies also will be interested.

The grid, funded by the National Library of Medicine, connects hospitals at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina, and the Sunnybrook and Women's College Hospital in Toronto, IBM said. The grid later will be extended to accommodate other institutions.

The system includes two Intel servers running Windows at each hospital, one storing data and one communicating with comrades on the grid. The systems will link with metropolitan and regional Linux and Unix servers. Data will be stored in an IBM DB2 database.

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