- NEW YORK (Reuters)
- International Business Machines Corp on Thursday unveiled the fastest
computer in the world, which the U.S. government will use to simulate nuclear
- The supercomputer, able to process more in a second than
one person with a calculator could do in 10 million years, was made for
the Department of Energy's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI).
- The system could ease congressional opposition to the
United States signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, banning all actual
nuclear weapons testing worldwide.
- ``Without underground testing, we need simulations to
make sure the stockpile is safe, reliable and operational,'' said David
Cooper, a member of the President's Council on Computing and chief information
officer of Lawrence Livermore Labs in California, where the system will
- Called ASCI White, the supercomputer will churn the factors
involved in a nuclear detonation, including the weapon's age and design.
This could eventually allow the government to manage its entire stockpile
of nuclear weapons without any real nuclear tests, Cooper said.
- The U.S. Senate last year declined to ratify the test
ban treaty, insisting on the nation's right to continue testing nuclear
- ``If you polled the weapons designers right now, they
would say that (actual) testing is still more effective,'' Cooper said.
- The new supercomputer is a major step toward full simulation
but is not yet capable of testing the nuclear weapons stockpile to standards
set by experts.
- A system that could replace actual nuclear tests must
have a computing capability of 100 teraflops, or trillions of operations
per second, versus the ASCI White computing capacity as tested by IBM of
12.3 teraflops, Cooper said.
- ``We're still on a timescale to do (100 teraflops) by
2004,'' he added.
- 1,000 Times Powerful Than Computer That Beat Kasparov
- The system contains 8,192 copper microprocessors and
is 1,000 times more powerful than its chess-playing predecessor ''Deep
Blue,'' which defeated World Champion Gary Kasparov in the historic 1997
chess showdown between man and machine.
- IBM is selling the system, which will take up the floor
space equivalent to two basketball courts and weighs as much as 17 full-sized
elephants, to the DOE for $110 million.
- But designing the most powerful computer in the world
has other pay-offs for IBM. The prestige could help it take a greater share
in the supercomputer market, and it could use the advanced technology in
its lower-level computer products.
- ``We're seeing more and more that deep computing will
become a critical element in how real businesses run every day, and that
it's not just in the territory of the propeller heads (technology buffs),''
said Nicholas Donofrio, IBM senior vice president technology and manufacturing.
- IBM officials and analysts said parts of the design of
ASCI White, which connects 512 separate computers together with high performance
switches and software, could be built into computers used for everything
from electronic business to designing cars.
- IBM often sells its leading edge technologies to its
rivals in the computer industry, using the proceeds to fund its enormous
research and development budget.
- ``We could take elements of this system and sell it to
other people,'' said Donofrio. ``Some of the things that might find their
way from ASCI White into the other people's systems are the switch or chips
that do the memory control.''
- ``This is part of IBM's product road map,'' said DH Brown
analyst Richard Partridge. ``They have the government fund the extreme
end and make sure they address all the difficult problems before they create
products for tasks that are not as difficult as nuclear weapons stockpile
- In 1999, IBM became the leader in the traditional supercomputer
market, in which some 250 computers that range in price from $2 million
to $100 million are sold every year, for use in weather predictions, research
and encryption, according to Joseph. IBM now has 30 percent of that market,
- ``This system becomes the biggest computer on earth,''
said Joseph. ``Having that kind of market presence is everything in the
traditional supercomputer market and will allow them to take more market
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