Supercomputers Getting Cheaper, Thanks To IBM!

IBM ratcheted the world of supercomputing up a few notches in June with the Blue Gene/P, a system nearly three times as fast as its predecessor at a cost of US$1.3 million per rack. But in anticipation of the Blue Gene/P, IBM dropped the price of the Blue Gene/L, to about $800,000 late last year, […]

IBM ratcheted the world of supercomputing up a few notches in June with the Blue Gene/P, a system nearly three times as fast as its predecessor at a cost of US$1.3 million per rack.

But in anticipation of the Blue Gene/P, IBM dropped the price of the Blue Gene/L, to about $800,000 late last year, prompting sales of the older supercomputer to more than double during the first half of this year compared to the second half of 2006, says Herb Schultz, IBM's deep-computing marketing manager.

At its highest price, the Blue Gene/Lcost $1.3 million per rack, same as the P's current price.

"It's still a very viable platform," Schultz says. Among universities, "we've had some really big sales." He named Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY and the State University of New York at Stony Brook as two new L-model customers.

Another buyer was the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB ), which begun using a Blue Gene/L a month or two ago to design drugs that could treat clogged arteries, neurological diseases and certain types of cancer.

UAB conducts more than $225 million worth of research for the National Institutes of Health each year. But it was reluctant to splurge on a supercomputer until the recent price drop.

"We knew the L was a model near the end of its production, and we were able to secure a much better price on that than we would on the newer model," says Richard Marchase, vice president for research and economic development at UAB. "For our purposes, the L had plenty of capacity."

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