HP to build Linux supercomputer

Hewlett-Packard announces a contract to build a Linux-powered supercomputer for the U.S. Department of Energy. Says an HP rep: "There is more than one top player" in supercomputing.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
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David Becker
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Hewlett-Packard announced a high-profile contract Tuesday to build a Linux-powered supercomputer for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The $24.5 million supercomputer will be capable of processing 8.3 trillion calculations per second (8.3 teraflops), according to HP. That would place the system among the current top 10 of the world's fastest supercomputers, if it were operating today.

HP expects to have the supercomputer running at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., early next year. The supercomputer will be used for biological and environmental research, including genomics work, at the laboratory's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL).

While supercomputers aren't big revenue producers for PC makers, they are valuable for bragging rights and credibility in high-end business systems. IBM has long been the leader in supercomputing projects, but Sun Microsystems and presumptive HP spouse Compaq Computer have snagged major projects in the past year.

"This demonstrates to the world there is more than one top player in the high-performance computing space," Martin Fink, general manager of HP's Linux Systems Operation, said in a conference call after the announcement.

The project, which will create the world's most powerful Linux computer, is also seen as a coup for the open-source operating system, although lab officials said they weren't particularly motivated by OS choice.

"Hardware performance was the determining factor for us," said Dave Dixon, associate director of theory, modeling and simulation at EMSL.

The supercomputer will be powered by 1,400 Intel processors based on the chipmaker's high-end Itanium design. The chips will be a 4-to-1 mix of Madison, the third-generation version of Itanium, to be released next year, and the upcoming second-generation McKinley.

The HP supercomputer will replace an outdated IBM system installed at the laboratory in 1997.