Fri, Jul 24, 2009
The Straits Times
Super fast computer for varsity

RESEARCH efforts at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will get a boost with what has been billed as the fastest supercomputer in Asia.

The new IBM supercomputer will help staff and students, from those researching climate change to others trying to come up with socio-economic models to explain the global financial crisis, crunch numbers faster.

Building such models requires massive computing power, and the new machine is just the ticket: It can perform over a trillion mathematical calculations every second. That is equivalent to the computing power of more than 700 high-end desktop computers.

The Straits Times understands that NTU's machine will cost more than $1 million.

Despite its power, a new chip and water-cooling system makes the supercomputer much less power-hungry compared to its peers - it is ranked No. 24 worldwide in terms of how power efficient it is for the computing power produced.

The computer's chip tweaks its power consumption, depending on how heavily used it is, while its water-cooling technology allows it to run at room temperature, eliminating the need for energy-guzzling air-conditioned rooms, a requirement for most such machines.

NTU mechanical and aerospace engineering faculty associate professor Ng Teng Yong said the new machine would 'give us results faster, allow us to run complex simulations not possible previously, and do more of them... I'm looking forward to it'.

As an example, he said, the simulation for one of his projects would have required a year's worth of number-crunching on his school's existing systems. But the new supercomputer, which will start operating in October, would cut this to under two months.

There are five supercomputer clusters here, at NTU, the National University of Singapore, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*star) Institute of High Performance Computing, the Singapore-MIT Alliance, and at one-north.

These supercomputer clusters were cross-linked several years ago, allowing users to tap unused computing power in the other clusters.


This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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