The Naval Oceanographic Office has begun using a new IBM Corp. supercomputer to perform research that may help prevent maritime disasters. The fourth-largest supercomputer in the world and the most powerful one in the Defense Department’s arsenal, the IBM RS/6000 SP will be used to assemble detailed models of ocean waves, currents and temperatures.
The models will enable scientists to predict the behavior of the world’s oceans with increased precision, helping to improve safety for military operations, as well as commercial shipping and search and rescue missions at sea. The supercomputer also will be used to forecast weather patterns that are influenced by the ocean, including "El Nino." Other DOD applications for the supercomputer include designing stronger aircraft and simulating battlefield environments. The new machine can process 2 trillion calculations per second and is nearly 170 times more powerful than IBM’s "Deep Blue" supercomputer, which gained notoriety in 1997 for defeating world chess champion Garry Kasparov. The supercomputer was installed by Logicon, a Northrop Grumman Co., at Stennis Space Center, Miss.
"We are extremely pleased the significant computational capability that this system will bring to the Department of Defense," said Landry Bernard, technical director at the Naval Oceanographic Office. "High performance-technology of this magnitude gives us unparalleled capabilities in the daily ocean and global scale modeling we perform to support worldwide DOD operations." "From a pure computer standpoint, these applications push the bounds of the machine," said Peter Ungaro, vice president of sales and marketing at IBM, adding that the computer was delivered about two months after the order was received. Six vendors competed for the $18 million contract last year.