IBM reported last week that its Blue Gene/L super computer has broken its previous record of 136.8 teraflops, or 136.8 trillion calculations per second. The machine which now features 65,536 processors can sustain 280.6 teraflops, IBM said.
In addition, the lab unveiled a lesser known but also powerful machine with a speed up to 100 teraflops. The ASC Purple is built from more conventional IBM server products. Together, ASC Purple and Blue Gene/L cost $290 million. Both will be used for nuclear weapons simulations and other computationally demanding tasks.
Broadly speaking, both machines use a similar approach: A powerful network connects huge numbers of processors. But there are differences. ASC Purple's 12,544 Power5 processors are individually more powerful than the specialized Power chip variants used in Blue Gene/L. And, each ASC Purple processor has access to more memory so that more complicated simulations can run. However, Blue Gene/L consumes less power, and instead of using a massive, complex central switch to connect processors, it uses a collection of five separate networks.