Iowa State University’s new super-computer is among the 100 largest in the world. Chief Information Officer Jim Davis says the way they judge “bigness” is by analyzing the power of the computer. By the amount of work they can do on the computer, to be precise. Davis says that’s one of the things that makes the computer at Iowa State very special: “A small box,” he says, “and yet it can do five-point-seven trillion floating-point operations per second.”
When scientists at I-S-U work on computational problems, they often have huge amounts of data they need to feed into the computer and it must store their results, so he says this super-computer has lots of disk space as well as being “a very fast computational engine.” The rating affirming I-S-U’s top-100 super-computing status was issued at a worldwide computer conference going on in Germany.
Unlike the world’s first powered computer, invented at I-S-U nearly 70 years ago by John Vincent Atanasoff, this one was purchased off-campus. And operators have already dubbed it “Cy Blue.” It’s an IBM “Blue Gene” model computer, so “Cy Blue” is the Iowa State nickname for it. The I-S-U team is the Cyclones, and “Cy” is the school mascot.
Davis says Cy Blue not only rocketed Iowa State back into the world rankings of the biggest computers, it’s given researchers a powerful new tool. He adds they won’t stop there — this computer can keep on growing. He says they hope to expand it over time as it becomes used more heavily. As researchers come with bigger projects to compute, he says it’ll be possible to double or even triple its size.
CyBlue contains 2,048 processors. It includes 11 trillion bytes of data storage. And all its processing power sits in a black box that’s about the size of a big refrigerator.