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IBM BladeCenter and POWER Microprocessor Fuel Europe’s Most Powerful Supercomputer


MADRID, SPAIN and ARMONK, NY -- 11/05/2004 -- IBM and the Spanish Minister of Education & Science, María Jesús San Segundo, unveiled today the most powerful supercomputer in Europe, breaking previously held records according to the LINPACK benchmark[1].

Named “MareNostrum,” the system was built with highly scalable and flexible IBM eServer™ BladeCenter JS20 blade servers and is based on the Linux operating system and IBM’s POWER™ microprocessors -- marking the first time that blade server technology has been used to attain top-five status among the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Also, unlike most other supercomputers, MareNostrum does not require additional cooling systems.

The supercomputer was built as a result of an agreement between IBM and the Spanish Government and will be available for a wide range of high-level scientific research and for applications in several industrial sectors.

Currently, IBM has installed 3,564 POWER processors out of the 4,564 that the computer system is expected to have upon total completion. However, under this partial configuration, MareNostrum has already reached a sustained performance of 20.53 Teraflops and a peak performance of 31.363 Teraflops in the LINPACK benchmark -- topping performance marks set by all other supercomputers in Europe. Once the project is fully completed, the supercomputer will employ a cluster of 2,882 eServer BladeCenter JS20 servers and is expected to reach as much as 40 Teraflops of peak performance.

“The expected ranking of MareNostrum among the top five supercomputers in the world is a true testament to the high-performance power, scalability and agility of IBM’s 64-bit Power Architecture running Linux on the JS20 systems,” said Brian Connors, vice president for Linux on POWER at IBM. “Scientists across varying disciplines can now tap incredible computing power to drive research breakthroughs that will lead the scientific community into a new age of research and innovation.”

The announcement marks the first time that blade server technology has been used to attain top-ten ranking among the world’s most powerful supercomputers -- with price-performance advantages previously unattainable among the world’s supercomputer elite. The supercomputer occupies a surface of 160 sq meters -- less than half a basketball court. It weighs 40,000 kg and it has reduced energy requirements. MareNostrum has been assembled temporarily in Madrid in a record time of less than two months. It will be permanently housed at the Politecnic University of Barcelona, Spain.

The MareNostrum system will be used by several scientific disciplines within the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science to help solve some of today’s most critical scientific questions including the decoding the human genome as well as work in protein structure, weather forecasting and the design of new drugs. It is estimated that the supercomputer will be available for the national and international scientific community in the spring of 2005.

A supercomputer for the scientific community

The supercomputer is a tool for the Spanish scientific community, making possible the development of projects that, until now, could only be conducted at international centers. As a result, scientists will be able to devise and conduct much more ambitious projects, giving a dynamic boost to the Spanish scientific program.

The areas of application of the supercomputer are diverse, however it will have significant relevance for life sciences and healthcare sectors. The following are some of the applications the supercomputer could be dedicated could be dedicated to:

-- Study of the human body: the supercomputer could be used for
studies on the human genome, protein folding and other complex processes
related to diseases such as Alzheimer or Cystic Fibrosis. This would offer
the prospect of great advances in medical treatments and medical
development. It will even allow remarkable advances towards obtaining
personalized medicine, adapted to the genetic and medical conditions of
each patient.

-- Meteorology: the study of the atmospheric phenomena and the
evolution of the climate requires complex calculations which include a high
number of variables. Supercomputing is being used already to make climatic
simulations and predictions with a greater precision, including the
possibility of advancing weather forecasting.

-- Natural disasters: one of the applications of Supercomputing is
to anticipate the possible effects of natural disasters (flooding, forest
fires, earthquakes, etc). This technology can even make easier decision
making in real time when anticipating, for example, which is going to be
the trajectory of a forest fire that is taking place.

-- Environment: supercomputers allow advancements in the study of
biodiversity and the balance of ecosystems. Also, they make possible the
development of hydrological predictions. In addition, the supercomputer
could be used to simulate the environmental and social impact of
agricultural, industrial and city-planning policies.

-- Industrial and management processes: the supercomputer could also
be used for industrial and business applications in diverse sectors like
aerospace, automobile or pharmaceutical.

Supercomputers are used for all those operations that require very complex calculations with a high number of variables and data such as astronomy or sciences applied to agriculture, making it easier, for example, in the studies on the effects of the genetic alterations in plants.
About IBM

IBM is the world’s largest information technology company, with 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. Drawing on resources from across IBM and key Business Partners, IBM offers a wide range of services, solutions and technologies that enable customers, large and small, to take full advantage of the new era of e-business. For more information about IBM, visit

[1] Based on LINPACK Highly Parallel Computing benchmark Rmax performance of 20,530 Gflop/s on 3,564 PowerPC 970 2.2 GHz CPUs in IBM eServer BladeCenter with 1,782 JS20 blades. Source: “Performance of Various Computers Using Standard Linear Equations Software”, Jack Dongarra, University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN, 37996, Computer Science Technical Report Number CS - 89 - 85, November 1, 2004, url:

IBM, eServer, Linux on POWER, POWER and the IBM e-business logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. See

Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries or both.

All others are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Statements concerning IBM’s future development plans and schedules are made for planning purposes only, and are subject to change or withdrawal without notice.


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