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IBM clusters get fresh hardware options

Big Blue plans to tap ClearSpeed accelerator cards and Cell processor-powered blade servers.

IBM plans to begin shipping two new hardware options next month to augment the performance of its Cluster 1350 systems.

The new options, available Nov. 17, are the ClearSpeed computation accelerator cards and the QS20 blade servers using the Cell Broadband Engine processor, according to an announcement sent to customers. The options can be incorporated into the Cluster 1350, a cluster of interconnected Linux servers using x86 processors from Advanced Micro Devices or Intel, or Power processors from IBM.

IBM declined to comment for this story, but the company is expected to announce the products more broadly in time for the SC06 supercomputing conference, which begins Nov. 11 in Tampa, Fla.

The ClearSpeed accelerator cards, which plug in through PCI-X expansion slots, boost a server's ability to perform mathematical computations.

The QS20 blade servers are stand-alone systems that employ dual 3.2GHz Cell processors, each of which include a Power processor core and eight helper cores that can speed up calculations. The QS20 blades are part of IBM's massive "Roadrunner" supercomputer being built at Los Alamos National Laboratory.