New IBM computer takes on the heat

The first major Linux-based supercomputer being installed within the Defense Department will help the government battle forest fires by detecting subtle changes in wind velocity and precipitation over distances as small as 3 kilometers.

Officials at the Maui High Performance Computing Center in Hawaii are installing an IBM eServer supercomputer that can make as many as 478 billion calculations per second, according to a company announcement. The University of New Mexico manages the center under a cooperative agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Fire officials will be able to determine the best way — both how and where — to deploy resources when a fire starts, thanks to the IBM eServer supercomputer. The supercomputer is a cluster of 256 IBM eServer x330 thin servers, and each has two Pentium III processors linked through Myricom Inc.'s Myrinet clustering software and high-speed networking hardware, the company said.

The Maui implementation of Linux follows the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 1999 decision to build a similarly clustered Linux-based supercomputer using Compaq Computer Corp. hardware in Boulder, Colo., to aid in weather forecasting.

University of New Mexico officials will also use the IBM supercomputer to support DOD warfighting efforts as well as for other environmental research, such as investigating hurricanes and tsunamis, according to IBM.

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