PORTLAND, Ore.—While IBM's Watson supercomputer tangles with its human competitors on the quiz show Jeopardy this week, the company's high-performance computing architects will be crafting—in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory—what they hope will become world's fastest supercomputer.
According to Top500.org, the world's fastest supercomputer is currently a 2.57-petaflop system, China's Tianhe-1a, which uses thousands of Intel Westmere processors with Nvidia Fermi graphics accelerators. In contrast, the Mira, based on the Blue Gene/Q, aims to top 10-petaflops using thousands of IBM's own Power7 cores.
This week, IBM's Watson is using 2,880 Power7 cores to compete with humans at the game Jeopardy. After the first day of the challenge Monday (Feb. 14), the three-day match stood even with the top human contestant and Watson each having 5,000 points. However, two more days of competition will decide whether a human or a supercomputer is better at Jeopardy.
The Mira supercomputer, on the other hand, will be used by Argonne National Laboratory for more practical applications, including designing electric car batteries, analyzing global climate change and simulating the evolution of the universe. IBM says that Mira will be "operational" in 2012, at which time it may become the fastest in the world.
Eventually, IBM hopes to scale up Mira toward the exascale with as many as 750,000 cores.