Saudi varsity, IBM to build one of world’s fastest supercomputers

September 24th, 2008 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Sep 24 (IANS) Saudi Arabia’s upcoming King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) has announced it will build one of the world’s fastest and most powerful supercomputers in collaboration with IBM.The joint project will build and conduct research on the most complex, high-performance computing (HPC) system in the region and among academic institutions in the world, according to a KAUST statement.

To be named Shaheen, the new system will serve the university’s scientific researchers across dozens of disciplines, advance new innovations in computational sciences, and contribute to the further development of a knowledge-based society in Saudi Arabia.

Shaheen is the Arabic name for the Peregrine falcon which can fly at speeds of up to 342 km per hour.

“From the outset, we have been determined that KAUST will be a major new resource in the global scientific community,” KAUST’s president Choon Fong Shih said in the statement.

“As a scientist myself, I can tell you that the Shaheen supercomputer is a tangible and outstanding example of our commitment to advancing science,” he added.

IBM’s general manager for technology and intellectual property Pat Toole said that IBM’s most talented researchers would work on this project.

“We see this as a superb way to animate deep computing techniques with practical and important real-world challenges that the living laboratory of Saudi Arabia is uniquely able to provide,” he said.

The supercomputer will be capable of 222 Teraflops - or 222 trillion floating point operations - per second and will become the fastest supercomputer in the region and equivalent to the fastest in Europe.

According to the industry top 500 list, which releases a biannual global ranking of the fastest and most powerful commercially available computer systems, Shaheen will rank sixth in the world in terms of performance, but will be designed to scale upward.

It will offer 65,536 independent processing cores, tightly coupled in a three-dimensional network.

It will also have the potential to implement a petaflop machine within the next two or three years, which could provide scalability over the long run for additional demands.

A next generation data centre that is able to scale up computing requirements will also be developed.

The new project is an initiative of the KAUST-IBM Centre for Deep Computing Research.

The centre will initially be located at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Centre in Yorktown Heights, New York, and will be later shifted to the KAUST campus at Thuwal on the Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia when the university officially opens in September 2009.

The centre will provide HPC services to KAUST’s research partners including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, London’s Imperial College and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

KAUST is being built as an international, graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in Saudi Arabia.

According to the university’s website, the KAUST global research and education network will support diverse talents both on its campus and at other premier universities and research institutions through collaborative research agreements, grants, and student scholarship programmes.

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