Scientists unveil new supercomputer

London, June 27:

Scientists yesterday unveiled a new generation of supercomputers,including a £30 million machine with the memory of 200,000 home computers and a hard disk hefty enough to hold

the entire Google index of the internet.

The huge devices, each costing tens of millions of pounds, will compete agai-nst each other this year for the title of the planet’s bigg-est electronic brains. The first contender, Constellati-on, has been built by Sun Microsystems at a cost of $59 million and boasts a 1.7 pet-abytes hard disk. It was unveiled at the International Supercomputer conference in Dresden, Germany.

The machine — which will go live later this year — can operate at speeds of 421 teraflops, or 421 trillion calculations a second. This will outstrip IBM’s 280 Teraflop Blue Gene/L, currently ranked as the world’s fastest computer, by some distance. But operating at such levels will be a significant power drain, requiring the same amount of power to run as ahigh-speed intercity train.

Despite the immense cost, officials said that high powered computers were now more powerful and less exp-ensive than ever before. “We have reached unprecedented cost performance for scientific computing,” said Andreas Bechtolsheim, chief architect and co-founder of Sun. The first Constellation computer, called Ranger, will be installed at the University of Texas in order to assist scientists and engineers with running incredibly complex calculations. Half of the cost will go directly on the hardware, while the rest is being spent on research and staff.

But although Constellation will put Sun back at the top table of hi-tech computing along with names such as Cray and IBM, its reign as the most powerful machine on the planet is likely to be short-lived.

IBM also took the stage in Dresden to announce its forthcoming planto build the latest Blue Gene computer, dubbed ‘P’. Blue Gene/P is expected to be almost three times more powerful than its predecessor, and will run continuously at speeds of around one petaflop — one quadrillion calculations a second. It is also claimed to be more energy efficient than its rivals The first P machine will start being put into operation by the US department of energy by the end of 2007, and will be followed by research institutes in Germany.