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IBM, Nvidia Collaborating on DOE $325M Next-Gen Supercomputer Project

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The U.S. Department of Energy has granted IBM a $325 million contract to develop two supercomputers, after the tech company partnered with Nvidia to develop pipeline technology that enables GPUs and CPUs to exchange data up to 12 times faster than previously possible.

Summit, the more powerful of the two supercomputers, will be housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, while the other machine, Sierra, will find a home in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Summit and Sierra's processing power will be made available for both civilian and scientific use.

Summit and Sierra will deliver raw computing power at more than 100 petaflops at peak performance, which will make them the most powerful computers in world. The fastest computer in the world right now, China's Tianhe-2 or "Milky Way 2," boasts roughly 55 petaflops of processing power.

"The systems will be capable of moving data to the processor, when necessary, at more than 17 petabytes per second (which is equivalent to moving over 100 billion photos on Facebook in a second) to speed time to insights," said IBM in a statement.

IBM says the world generated more than 2.5 billion gigabytes of data each day, which would fill 250 million football fields if that information was in book form.

With IBM's "data centric" strategy, which has been around for half a decade, developers put computing power everywhere data resides. This approach saves energy and streamlines the computing process, which has traditionally entailed passing data between storage and CPUs and GPUs.

While the computing power will be spread out more in IBM's data-centric approach, the company didn't overlook CPU and GPU communications. IBM partnered with Mollanox and Nvidia to maximize the supercomputers' graphics and networking capabilities.

IBM helped push foward Nvidia's NVLink technology, which will be employed in IBM Power CPUs and Nvidia's next generation of graphic cards. To improve the negotiations of data handling, IBM joined forces with Mellanox on a new interconnect that leverages "built-in intelligence."

IBM's focus on data centers exemplifies the direction that computing at large is heading. The company is ushering in a future in which open platforms get back in front of the swelling amounts of data generated by organizations of all sizes, according to Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM's Systems and Technology Group.

"The beauty of the systems being developed for Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge is that the core technologies are available today to organizations of many sizes across many industries," says Rosamilia.

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