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IBM seals $27 million supercomputer deal

Based on Big Blue's forthcoming Power4 processor, the machine is being built for a Korean science institute for physics, chemistry and fluid-mechanics research.

IBM has inked a deal to provide what it says will be one of the 10 largest supercomputers.

The Armonk, N.Y., company announced Friday that it will build a supercomputer capable of 4.24 trillion calculations per second for the Korea Institute of Science, Technology and Information.

Supercomputers are the fastest class of computers, generally tying hundreds of processors together to tackle mathematics-intensive tasks such as weather forecasting and genetics research.

Under the agreement, worth $27 million, IBM will begin installing the machine late in the year and finish early in 2003. The machine, based on IBM's forthcoming Power4 processor, will be used by the institute to study physics, chemistry and fluid mechanics, among other things.

IBM is the dominant supercomputer maker, and its ASCI White nuclear weapons simulation machine tops the list of the world's fastest. The company of late has begun signing contracts to deliver supercomputers that use Power4.

Germany's Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences announced in May that it will install a Power4 supercomputer, designed to perform up to 3.8 trillion calculations per second. The Munich, Germany-based society will use it to research astrophysics and biochemistry, among other things. IBM expects to complete the machine in 2002.

The Power4 combines various IBM chipmaking tricks with two 1GHz or faster processor cores in the same chip, effectively doubling processor power. The chip is due later this year. IBM will also offer the chip in its 32-processor Regatta servers, this fall.

The Finnish Ministry of Education also has purchased a Power4-based supercomputer, an IBM representative said.