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Supercomputer Top Spot To IBM Again?

IBM says the federal government, in a bid to improve weather forecasting, has ordered a computer that will be 50 times faster than its current weather system.

The giant computer company says the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a division of the National Weather Service, will build a $224 million, 100 teraflop computer that can run 100 trillion calculations per second.

"Instead of just saying it's going to rain in New York City, they'll be able to say it's going to rain in Queens, or Manhattan," said Peter Ungaro, vice president of high performance computing for IBM.

He also said the increased computing power will make longer-term forecasts more reliable. It will be built over seven years, starting with a 7 teraflop system that will be installed in September, and ending at 100 teraflops in 2009.

A 100 teraflop machine can do more calculations in one second than a person with a calculator could make in more than 80 million years, IBM said.

Still, it may not be the fastest computer out there as other supercomputers are also under construction.

It will, however, be far faster than IBM's existing fastest computer, ASCI-White, which was made for the energy department's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which runs at 12 trillion calculations per second and is used for nuclear test simulations.

ASCI-White lost its spot as the world's fastest supercomputer eariler this year to Japan's NEC Corp., which unleashed this spring the Earth Simulator, which runs at 35 teraflops, or 35 trillion calculations per second. That machine was to be involved in climate and weather studies.

IBM said its new weather computer will be based on its Power 4 microprocessor technology, which is used in some of its high-end computers for corporations, and will be located in IBM's facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland.


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