New supercomputer finds home in Europe

Research center in Germany hopes Julicher Blue Gene/L can help stem the brain drain of top scientists to U.S.

A German research agency has begun operating what is thought to be Europe's most powerful computer.

The Julich Research Center has deployed a system based on IBM's Blue Gene. The supercomputer is known as the Julicher Blue Gene/L, or JUBL, and consists of eight Blue Gene racks.

This gives JUBL a total of 16,384 processors, and a maximum processing speed of 45.6 teraflops, which would have put it in fifth place in the global supercomputing Top500 when the list was last updated in November.

JUBL will be used to tackle major scientific problems, research center head Thomas Lippert said last week at the CeBit trade show in Germany. Lippert said that JUBL can handle intensive tasks such as modeling protein folding or the behavior of liquids or gases.

"We can model trace gas concentrations, or monitor the damage to the ozone layer over the Arctic," said Lippert. "We can also use it to understand the nanostructure of new chips and develop new materials for data storage."

Lippert wouldn't say how much JUBL had cost, other than it was less than $12 million (10 million euros).

According to Lippert, up to five projects can run simultaneously on the supercomputer. Scientists from across Europe can now apply to have their projects run on JUBL, and Lippert hopes that the supercomputer will give a boost to scientific research in Germany and beyond.

"We want the brain drain to flow into Germany rather than toward the U.S., and we hope that the whole of Europe can benefit," Lippert said.

The largest nonsecret supercomputer in the world is Blue Gene/L, which is based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. It has achieved a processing speed of 280.6 teraflops per second, thanks to its 65,536 processors.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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