Boston, MASS. — Boston University has bought an IBM supercomputer researchers say will dramatically cut the time they spend calculating the structure of nuclear matter in the study of particle physics and quantum physics.
“Our present capacity in critical computing is about 75 billion operations per second,” Claudio Rebbi, director of the university’s Center for Computational Science, said Wednesday. “This new computer will bring us to 100 billion operations per second.”
The supercomputer was first made for the Department of Energy’s Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI). IBM said a classified version of the ASCI White computer is used by the U.S. Department of Energy to simulate nuclear tests.
The university’s current five-year-old, SGI-Cray computer will, “slowly be phased out as the ASCI White is ramped up,” said John Porter, the school’s chief information officer.
The ASCI White was delivered with Power-3 microprocessors and will be upgraded with Power-4 processors in two years, Porter said, noting that the university, “was looking for an ongoing relationship.”
Rebbi estimated the upgrade in 2002 would cut the computing time for his faculty “by a factor of 10, not just two.”
Neither IBM nor Boston University would disclose the ASCI White’s price.
In June, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM unveiled the computer, the fastest in the world, able to process more in a second than one person with a calculator could in 10 million years.
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.
In 1999, IBM became the leader in the traditional supercomputer market. IBM now has about 30 percent of the 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 prediction, research and encryption.