Since 2007, IBM has been working with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to construct the world's fastest academic supercomputer. This week we learn that work has been mysteriously halted by IBM, which is taking back the parts it recently delivered to the school, giving U. of Illinois its money back, and ceasing work on the project just months before the massive computer is slated to be completed.
Usually we'd spend the second paragraph telling you why, but in this case we just don't know. IBM said the supercomputer became more expensive and more complex than the company foresaw. A company spokeswoman said IBM is capable of meeting the technological goals outlined for the project, but nonetheless it is choosing not to.
That's all a bit odd. The computer, known as Blue Waters, is a building-sized behemoth costing roughly half a billion dollars, much of which was funded by the National Science Foundation. It was based on IBM's Power7 series chip that is not yet on the market. Which makes one wonder if there was a problem with the chip or with the architecture of the computer itself. Or maybe upon building the first few racks of hardware the computer started to think for itself (with few answers to work with, we're taking license to speculate here).
But the world's biggest, baddest academic computer isn't necessarily lost. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (you may remember it from our coverage of U. of Illinois' Advanced Visualization Lab earlier this year), which is heading the effort, is seeking other means to finish the computer without IBM. But it only has a few weeks to get another plan in front of the NSF.
Unfortunately, this kind of hardware doesn't exactly exist in plug-and-play format, so we'll have to wait and see if some other chip developer can step in and make the NCSA's new supercomputer as super as it was supposed to be.
I, for one, WOULD welcome our supercomputer overlord, if SOMEONE hadn't changed their mind... ¬_¬
The supercomputer became sentient and tried to kill them, so they had to shut it down
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
~ Carl Sagan
So that means it's cheaper to refund the money than it is to finish the project?
So this writer of this story can not understand that IBM does not keep him in the know of IBM economic plans or problems or their goals. ( Really?! )
Yes, this is a COMPETE MYSTERY!
Wait, no it's not.
So it was like every other building project. The builder, IBM, sandbagged on their estimate , probably assuming that nsca would accept their increase in costs halfway through building. Who wants to stop once its halfway done. And most importantly time has been invested. NCsA called their bluff.
Really IBM , so advanced they can create this tech, but can't work a calculator?
I know it's not PopSci's fault, given that the article is from The Chronicle of Higher Education, but the article is inaccurate and potentially misleading.
The article claims that the POWER7 microprocessors used in the supercomputer have not been shipped. In fact, POWER7-based systems have been shipping since February 2010 (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/08/ibm_power7_systems_launch/). A mid-life update, the POWER7+, has been known since May 2011; and it is rumored that it will be announced later this year.
This inaccuracy might have just remained an inaccuracy had the article not also said that the cause for the cancellation of the supercomputer is unknown in a sensationalist manner: The first sentence of the second paragraph says, "Usually we’d spend the second paragraph telling you why, but in this case we just don’t know".
This could be construed as suggesting that Blue Waters was canceled because the POWER7 didn't work.
A better article about the cancellation of Blue Waters can be found at HPCwire: http://www.hpcwire.com/hpcwire/2011-08-08/ibm_bails_on_blue_waters_supercomputer.html
Personally, I think the cancellation is most likely because of economics. Supercomputers such as the Blue Waters are not cheap to design and manufacture; yet the supercomputer market is very much concerned about cost and cost/performance. When the Blue Waters project was started, IBM did not have the the hardware; and during the course of design and manufacture, found that the cost of doing so was more than expected.
IBM could have underbid as well. I don't known about the current practices, but in the 1980s, companies like Convex Computer were willing to give away a $1.2 million machine for $100,000 and take a huge loss just to keep a competitor out of a site.
The Japanese earthquake and the global financial crisis may have played a role too by messing with currency exchange rates and material prices. The system boards used in the supercomputer are not commodity-class boards in several respects and are made in Japan by Hitachi, I believe.
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@sky1597vw, you icebergs are showing.
But will it run Crysis?
Come on guys, lets discuss the real reason... While running a test simulation which attempted to solve our financial crisis and balance our budget and debt, the super computer came out with the solution of killing all humans. Then they tried to run a simulation to figure out how to make a better more efficient government and once again, the machine came out with killing all humans as a solution... So from my imagination, you get the real (B.S.) reason!
how are IBM getting out of breach of contract?
Should they just work out the kinks and a learn how to do it right once? after they can give an accurate price if they can ever sell another one.
china can build it cheaper
Safe bet the NSA could provide the needed chips to complete the project. The only problem is that the CIA already told them that EOW (end of world) is less than 2 years from now. Existing computer power processing time is being utilized by U of I s football coaches to hedge bets against the SEC. (ie,,short term goals.)
George Lucas wanted to use it to make the next 3D Star Wars (sans human actors)and IBM couldn't stand for that.