Energy hires IBM, Corning for supercomputing optics

Department of Energy

The Energy Department awarded $20 million to the team of IBM Corp. and Corning Inc. to develop high-speed interconnects for supercomputers.

According to IBM officials, the agreement calls for a 30-month program to produce high-speed, optically switched interconnects that are designed to link clusters of computers together into a single machine.

The two companies will work with DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration on the project.

This program is aimed at increasing network bandwidth by 50 times while decreasing the cost of supercomputers. Optical technology involves equipment that sends information encoded as pulses of light, which far surpasses the limits of electronic data transmission.

Corning's Science and Technology Division will develop a prototype of an optically switched interconnect that could replace traditional copper cables and electronic switches with a scalable, optical network.

IBM Research Labs will provide the system's electronic control and monitoring circuitry, and will assist with the integration of the optical interconnect modules provided by Corning.

Supercomputers provide researchers the capability to simulate systems and processes that are too large for normal computing technology. These simulations include weather forecasting, drug design and film animation.

"Driving to exceed 1 petaflop, or one quadrillion operations per second, will enable researchers to break down new barriers in life sciences, weather prediction and defense," said Tilak Agerwala, vice president of systems at the IBM Watson Research Center.

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