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Iceland turns to penguin-powered research

The avian mascot of the Linux operating system is heading to the North Atlantic nation to assist in the hunt for likely locations on which to build geothermal power plants.

Penguins are generally found in the cold regions of the southern hemisphere, but the avian mascot of the Linux operating system is headed for the other side of the world as part of an energy project in Iceland.

, a Salt Lake City company that links numerous individual Linux servers into a collective supercomputer, has sold a system to the Icelandic Energy Authority that will be used to find likely locations on which to build geothermal power plants, the company said Wednesday.

Geothermal plants generate power by pumping water into pipes through naturally hot rock, which volcanically active Iceland has in abundance, then sending the resulting steam through power generation turbines. About 44 percent of Iceland's power comes from geothermal energy, according to the country's Energy Authority.

Finding good sites on which to build geothermal plants is a difficult problem. The computer system from Linux Networx will be used to simulate geothermal reservoirs in three dimensions. Though the Icelandic system is a relatively small cluster with 48 processors, Linux Networx has helped build systems with as many as 2,048.

Energy companies have been among the earliest customers for Linux cluster supercomputers that can tackle the computationally intense tasks such as finding subterranean oil and gas deposits. Linux Networx has sold systems to Shell Exploration and Production for its oil and gas research.

Dell Computer, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems all are making their way into the Linux supercomputing cluster market as well.

In addition, Iceland's Institute for Meteorological Research will use the system for simulating the country's weather patterns. The two organizations also are using the Clusterworx and ICE Box management tools.

Linux Networx also announced a new distributor of its products, Taiwan-based DigiGenomics, which specializes in selling computers to genetics companies. Linux Networx has been expanding internationally.