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KAUST and IBM to build 1 of the fastest and most powerful supercomputers

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Armonk, N.Y (September 22, 2008) - IBM and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) today announced a joint project to build and conduct research on the most complex, high-performance computing (HPC) system in the region and among academic institutions in the world. The new system, named Shaheen, will serve the University's scientific researchers across dozens of disciplines, advance new innovations in computational sciences, and contribute to the further development of a knowledge-based society in Saudi Arabia.

Shaheen is the Arabic word for the Peregrine falcon, a bird which can reach dive speeds of up to 213 miles (or 342 kilometers) per hour. Similarly, the 16-rack Blue Gene/P System, capable of 222 Teraflops - or 222 trillion floating point operations - per second installed at the KAUST campus in Thuwal, will become the fastest supercomputer in the region and equivalent to the fastest in Europe. According to the industry TOP500 list, which releases a biannual global ranking of the fastest and most powerful commercially available computer systems, Shaheen would rank sixth in the world in terms of performance, and is designed to scale upward. Within two years, KAUST will make available a petaflop computing capability, putting the University on a path toward exascale computing in the near future. The machine will also be one of the most energy-efficient supercomputers globally, in keeping with the high environmental standards to which KAUST holds itself.

The project, known as the KAUST/IBM Center for Deep Computing Research, is designed to "jumpstart" KAUST's HPC capacity. The Center will initially be located at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Laboratory in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and is ready to provide HPC services to KAUST's research partners located throughout the world. These range in discipline and geography, from MIT in Massachusetts to London's Imperial College and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In addition, KAUST researchers will be embedded with industry-leading IBM researchers. The Center will move to the new KAUST campus in the summer of 2009, shortly before the University officially opens in September 2009.

The KAUST/IBM Center for Deep Computing Research project is unique because it will deliver both high-performance computing capabilities to the entire range of academic disciplines at KAUST as well as enable advanced research and innovation in the computational sciences and HPC field. The partnership between KAUST and IBM is an extraordinary example of collaboration to create a leading supercomputing center of immense capacity. Both KAUST and IMB have negotiated terms for joint ownership of intellectual property for commercial use.

For many years, IBM has successfully conducted such HPC projects globally with customers and partners in the research, industry, and government sectors. However, this is the largest such project IBM has ever carried out with an academic institution anywhere in the world.

"We consider it a privilege to create a supercomputer that will lead to the generation of a knowledge society among Saudi Arabia and IBM's most talented researchers on this important joint project," said Pat Toole, IBM General Manager, Technology & Intellectual Property. "We see this as a superb way to animate deep computing techniques with practical and important real-world challenges that the living laboratory of Saudi Arabia is uniquely able to provide."

"From the outset, we have been determined that KAUST will be a major new resource in the global scientific community. As a scientist myself, I can tell you that the Shaheen supercomputer is a tangible and outstanding example of our commitment to advancing science," said Professor Choon Fong Shih, KAUST's president designate. "With IBM, which is the preeminent provider and innovator in supercomputing today, KAUST is truly driving inquiry and discovery, and catalyzing Saudi Arabia's human and economic potential."

Majid Al-Ghaslan, KAUST's interim chief information officer and the University's leader in the acquisition, design, and development of the Shaheen supercomputer, said: "The KAUST/IBM Center for Deep Computing Research will enable researchers at KAUST and its partner institutions to unlock the most challenging and complex systems within life sciences, energy, environment, industry, manufacturing, and fundamental research. It will become a magnet for the best research minds in the world."

Key Facts. The supercomputer will offer:

  • 65,536 independent processing cores, tightly coupled in a three-dimensional network.
  • Potential to implement a petaflop machine within the near future, which could provide scalability over the long run for additional demands.
  • A next generation data center that is able to scale to exascale computing requirements
  • Abundance of high-speed access to local storage capacity
  • Connection infrastructure which will support a 40Gbps backbone and 10Gbps connections between building and high speed connection to the global research networks


Contact: Jeff Weintraub
King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

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