New York, N.Y. — International Business Machines Corp. said the U.S. Department of Defense paid $18 million for one of the world’s fastest supercomputers to help Navy vessels avoid maritime disasters like the one portrayed in the film “The Perfect Storm.”
Code-named “Blue Wave,” the new IBM RS/6000 SP will rank as the most powerful supercomputer at the Defense Department and the fourth-fastest in operation anywhere in the world. It will enable the U.S. Navy to create the most detailed model of the world’s oceans ever constructed.
The research performed by “Blue Wave” is expected to improve maritime storm forecasting as well as search and rescue efforts for naval vessels.
In June, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM unveiled the fastest computer in the world, able to process more in a second than one person with a calculator could do in 10 million years.
That supercomputer was designed for the U.S. government to simulate nuclear weapons tests. It was made for the Department of Energy’s Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI). IBM sold the system, which occupies floor space equivalent to two basketball courts and weighs as much as 17 elephants, to the DOE for $110 million.
The U.S. Navy computer, which can process two trillion calculations per second, will model ocean depth, temperature and wave heights to new levels of accuracy and detail, boosting the ability of meteorologists to predict storms at sea.
“The Perfect Storm,” a best-selling book by Sebastian Junger, told the tale of the Andrea Gail, a fishing vessel at sea off the coast of Newfoundland during a deadly Nor’easter that killed the entire crew. The recently released film version showed the boat capsizing and sinking after failing to crest a 100-foot swell because the captain had received only sketchy information about the approaching storm and waves.
In 1999, IBM became the leader in the traditional supercomputer market. IBM now has about 30 percent of that market, in which some 250 computers that range in price from $2 million to $100 million or more are sold every year, for use in weather predictions, research and encryption.