IBM sells Blue Gene for brain research

Big Blue sells a multimillion-dollar model of its new Blue Gene/L supercomputer to simulate the workings of the human brain. Images: Mapping the neocortex

IBM has sold a multimillion-dollar model of its new Blue Gene/L supercomputer to simulate the workings of the human brain.

The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, or EPFL, in Lausanne, Switzerland, purchased the supercomputer and will collaborate with experts from IBM on the project, Big Blue said Monday.


The two-year effort, dubbed the Blue Brain project, will build a three-dimensional model that simulates the electrochemistry of a major portion of the brain, the neocortex, with plans to simulate other parts and eventually the entire brain. The researchers hope to understand processes such as perception, thought and memory and to illuminate how malfunctions in the brain's circuitry can lead to problems such as autism and schizophrenia.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but EPFL bought a four-rack Blue Gene model, and IBM charges about $2 million per rack. Each rack has 1,024 Power processors linked with multiple high-speed communications networks. The system will be delivered this month.

IBM has sold several Blue Gene models since it began commercializing the former research project in 2004. The company also rents access to its own machines.

The system also will be used for semiconductor, physics and protein research.

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Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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