April 12, 2005
BARCELONA, Spain - Europe's fastest supercomputer - an IBM that can make 40 trillion calculations per second - booted up for the first time Tuesday at a research center in Barcelona.
The so-called MareNostrum computer boasts 40 teraflops of speed, which in layman's terms means it can make more calculations than a human pecking at a calculator could make in 10 million years.
Its memory is equal to the combined memories of nearly 20,000 personal computers, and its storage system has a capacity of 233 terabytes, the equivalent of the information that could be found in 29 million books.
It is owned by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, a consortium composed of the Spanish and Catalan governments and Barcelona's Polytechnical University.
The computer is the fourth most powerful supercomputer in the world and the fastest of any installed in a government-owned research center that is accessible to outside teams of investigators.
It looks like a series of joined cabinets and is housed in - of all places - a chapel on the university campus. The computing center press office called this "the ideal place" but would not say why. It also declined to disclose how much it cost to build the computer.
The MareNostrum will be used for research in computer architecture, aerodynamics, biology and genetics, and also has industrial applications, the center said.
Though it's not the fastest computer in the world - IBM's Blue Gene/L in the United States takes that honor - the MareNostrum is unique because it's one of the most accessible supercomputers yet created. IBM hopes future supercomputers similar to the MareNostrum will make it easier for governments and public institutions to have access to these powerful machines.
Spain's MareNostrum was made entirely with components available on the open market, such as conventional blade servers, and uses a Linux operating system.
Thanks to the use of mainstream technology, little more than a year separated the project's inception from Tuesday's official startup, far less time than is usually required for the creation of a supercomputer.
With a size of 1,290 square feet, a weight of 100,000 pounds and a relatively low energy consumption of 630Kw, the Marenostrum is also one of the world's smallest supercomputers.
MareNostrum means "our sea" in Latin, a reference to Barcelona's location on the Mediterranean.