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New IBM server offers supercomputer capability

Big Blue will release a new high-end Unix server Monday, commercializing technology developed for nuclear weapons supercomputers.

IBM will release a new high-end Unix server Monday, commercializing technology developed for nuclear weapons supercomputers.

As previously reported, the new RS/6000 SP "Nighthawk 2" server is the basis for the ASCI White supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used to simulate nuclear explosions. It's the first computer to use IBM's new Power3-III chips, which incorporate copper interconnect technology for higher performance.

IBM's SP systems now can harness the collective might of as many as 8,192 processors, IBM said. However, unlike designs that cram all those chips in a single machine, the SP design spreads them across numerous servers connected by a high-speed switch.

IBM hopes that by adding new models and aggressive marketing it will be able to reproduce the phenomenal success of Sun Microsystems.

One of the new SP systems ran the Web site for the recent Wimbledon tennis tournament, and another will be used to house the Web site for the upcoming Olympics, IBM said.

The lowest-end RS/6000 SP, with four processors, costs $190,000, said spokesman John Buscemi. A more typical configuration, with 64 to 100 processors, costs about $1.5 million to $2 million, he said.