Battle to Build the Biggest Supercomputer

By: Subhash

SCIENTISTS HAVE unveiled a new generation of , including a ?30m machine with the memory of 200,000 home computers and a hard disk hefty enough to hold the entire Google index of the Internet.

The huge devices, each costing tens of millions of pounds, will compete against each other this year for the title of the planet's biggest electronic brains.

The first contender, Constellation, has been built by Sun Microsystems at a cost of $59m and boasts a 1.7 petabytes . It was unveiled at the International Supercomputer conference in Dresden, Germany.

The machine - which will go live later this year - can operate at speeds of 421 teraflops, or 421 trillion calculations a second. This will outstrip IBM's 280 Teraflop Blue Gene/L, currently ranked as the world's fastest computer, by some distance. But operating at such levels will be a significant power drain, requiring the same amount of power to run as a high-speed intercity train.

Despite the immense cost, officials said that high-powered computers were now more powerful and less expensive than ever before. "We have reached unprecedented cost performance for scientific computing," said Andreas Bechtolsheim, chief archi- tect and co-founder of Sun.

The first Constellation computer, called Ranger, will be installed at the University of Texas in order to assist scientists and engineers with running incredibly complex calculations. But although Constellation will put Sun back at the top table of hitech computing along with names such as Cray and IBM, its reign as the most powerful machine on the planet is likely to be short-lived.

IBM also took the stage in Dresden to announce its forthcoming plan to build the latest Blue Gene computer, dubbed "P". It is expected to be almost three times more powerful than its predecessor.

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