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Supercomputing IBM Hardware Technology

'Blue Waters' Supercomputer Lucky To Exist 39

Nerval's Lobster writes "One could argue that the University of Illinois' "Blue Waters" supercomputer, scheduled to officially open for business March 28, is lucky to be alive. The 11.6 petaflop supercomputer, commissioned by the University and the National Science Foundation (NSF), will rank in the upper echelon of the world's fastest machines—its compute power would place it third on the current list, just above Japan's K Computer. However, the system will not be submitted to the TOP500 list because of concerns with the way the list is calculated, officials said. University officials and the NSF are lucky to have a machine at all. That's due in part to IBM, which reportedly backed out of the contract when the company determined that it couldn't make a profit. The university then turned to Cray, which would have had to replace what was presumably a POWER or Xeon installation with the current mix of AMD CPUs and Nvidia GPU coprocessors. Allen Blatecky, director of NSF's Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, told Fox that pulling the plug was a 'real possibility.' And Cray itself had to work to find the parts necessary for the supercomputer to begin at least trial operations in the fall of 2012."
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'Blue Waters' Supercomputer Lucky To Exist

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  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @03:58PM (#43295633) Journal

    You can only say it's "lucky to be alive" if you think it's alive. The standard theorem of AI is that when anything AI-ish gets developed, people say "Oh, that's not really Intelligence, that's just {Pattern Recognition / Expert System solving / Machine Vision / OCR/ etc.}" But if it is actually alive, then it's lucky somebody noticed so they know not to turn it off.

    • by ThePeices ( 635180 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @04:08PM (#43295771)

      Greetings pedant!

      You make many logical and valid points as any pedant worth their salt is apt to do, but unfortunately it all falls to pieces when I point out that "lucky to be alive" is actually what we like to call "a figure of speech".

      But please don't feel bad, misunderstandings like these happen to pedants of all ages, we are human after all.

      In all honesty, we here at Slashdot forgive you.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      alive =/= intelligent

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seven comments and every one is about that damned hosts troll. jesus, prople, STOP FEEDING THAT GOD DAMNED TROLL! Am I the only one who's sick of him?

    K5 died from trolls in the inside (Pete Jongular for one), considering that hosts troll doesn't have a "read the rest of this message", I'm starting to suspect that this is either an inside job, or slashdot has been hacked. WTF is going on, slashdot?

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @04:55PM (#43296385)

    because of concerns with the way the list is calculated

    Read: because it won't look as nice as throwing the Rpeak of 11.6 Petaflops out there, and the ration of Rmax to Rpeak will look poor as well.

    I know the Top500 is a BS, single dimensional metric. It is valid to call it out on that. However, to do so while also trumpeting '11.6 Petaflops' is disengenious since it is also a BS single dimensional metric that in many ways can be pulled completely out of ones ass, which is even worse than a measured value. HPC Challenge Benchmark has the noble goal of measuring the character of an HPC system in a more holistic manner, but no one pays as much attention to it. When occasionally a supercomputer installation does skip a Top500 submission, people tend not to think about that installation so much.

    Of course, it's completely bizarre that placement in any such global list is a factor in purchasing and design at all. It really should be about the specific needs of the group funding it and how they are met, not some penis measuring contest.

    • by rmstar ( 114746 )

      Of course, it's completely bizarre that placement in any such global list is a factor in purchasing and design at all.

      There is a whole lot of politics involved in HPC. The only way to justify the ridiculous costs (not only in hardware, but also in energy) for this type of machines is by convincing university management that they are going to look really good ("We will be recognized as global players if we have a machine in that list", etc, etc.). This is indeed bizarre, but the way it is.

      The people who buil

      • That might be painting supercomputer owners with a bit too broad of a brush.

        The NASA Advanced Super Computing Division (www.nas.nasa.gov) is crammed full of supercomputers of various designs (clusters, single-system image behemoths, co-processing, etc) and from everything I've ever heard they run at insanely good utilization levels. If I remember a presentation from one of their chiefs correctly, they achieved this level of utilization not only with great technical management and know-how, but by consolida

      • Re: The people who build and manage these machines aren't usually terribly interested in the needs of scientists running jobs on it. They are just obsessed in piling up hardware and getting the credits, like race car builders. The needs of the scientists tend to be an afterthought. Quite often, and I have that as an insider, these machines idle around because a lot of scientists have a nice quad-core machine under their desks fullfilling their computing needs just fine, and getting something to run on the m
      • by HuguesT ( 84078 )

        That is a little schematic. Most codes running on HPC that I know are not trivial, typically expensive CFD calculations with 3D fluid / structure interaction, that may actually require quite a few thousand of hours of computation, e.g. blood flow simulations in the brain. Some scientists I know study physical geo-mechanical models that require them to analyze thousands of 2048^3 tomography data where they identify and simultaneously track tens of thousands of individual grains of sand as well as the relatio

  • One could argue that the University of Illinois' "Blue Waters" supercomputer... is lucky to be alive.

    What are they saying, exactly? Are the rest of us about to be extremely unlucky to be alive or something? :p

  • all this talk about AI.... why not Skynet?

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"