IBM services get supercomputers up and running faster

IBM is offering new services that include installation of supercomputers, training, and porting of applications to high-performance computing systems

IBM on Thursday said it is now offering high-performance computing services to customers who want to get supercomputers up and running faster.

The company is offering services that include installation of supercomputers, training and porting of applications to high-performance systems, the company said. The services are being provided by IBM's deep computing group, which is responsible for products like x86-based system clusters to supercomputers based on the company's Power architecture.

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Users of high-performance computers include researchers who need a lot of processing power for complex math calculations. Supercomputing sometimes calls for skills that some organizations might not have, and the services portfolio will make IBM's HPC skills available to those customers, the company said.

HPC systems could be expensive to implement, and IBM could provide some expertise in implementing systems while minimizing risk for customers, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"But it's going to be a fairly narrow range of customers to begin with," King said. HPC is useful for universities or companies in sectors like insurance or oil and gas that do a lot of research, he said. However, there could be a spike in demand for IBM's HPC services as customers need more processing power to address more sophisticated computing requirements.

"IBM's got the experience and brainpower to [address] what will be a maturing demand for this type of service," King said.

As of November 2008, IBM's Roadrunner topped the Top500 list of supercomputers. Based on Power architecture, the chip delivers a performance of 1.059 petaflops and is used by the U.S. Department of Energy at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S. IBM had a total of 185 supercomputers on the list, second to Hewlett-Packard, which had 210 supercomputers.

In addition to designing a company's HPC strategy, the services offered include application testing and implementation of storage.

Getting the right people from IBM to go to a customer site wasn't always possible, and the new service offerings solve that problem, said Bill Sass, program manager of the deep computing service offering. IBM takes a look at what the customer needs, and pulls resources from different departments -- like IBM Research -- to fulfill those needs, Sass said.

"What we have found in working with customers, they would like to have access to critical skills that IBM has in our research and development teams," he said.

The services are available worldwide. Pricing depends on the type of service and customer's needs, Sass said.

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