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IBM opens first Cell research center on college campus

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IBM opens first Cell research center on college campus

Indianapolis (IN) – Today, IBM opened the doors on it latest global research center.  Located on the IUPUI campus, a school operated by both Indiana & Purdue Universities, the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex now houses a 2,000 square foot, $3.8 million dollar facility dedicated to advancing Cell processor products and applications research.  It’s the first of its kind for IBM.

IBM chose Indianapolis because it’s part of the “central technology corridor” here in the United States.  IUPUI happens to also be home to the nation’s second largest medical campus.  And since Cell processors have found great use and utility in processing the large amounts of data available in even standard MRI scans, for example, the location becomes very convenient for continued research.

Right now the facility is just starting up.  They have four QS20 blades operating at a core clock rate of up to 5.0 GHz on hand right now.  They are looking to get an undisclosed additional number of QS21blades in the near future, along with not yet announced follow-on technology next year.

The facility is not currently operating at full capacity and there is still research to be done on the best ways to proceed with research and development.  Currently, the support staff is comprised of only five individuals on site, only one of which was a local hire out of Indianapolis.  That small number also includes the manager, Dr. Robert Eades, who told us that the “ecosystem” IBM works with internally is much larger, including researchers located around the globe.

The primary focus of the facility will be to develop software algorithms and related optimizations built around leveraging Cell processor technology and application toward the most financially viable market segments for IBM.  Dr. Eades told us they’re working with universities, governments, private corporations and research groups to customize and improve algorithms for use with Cell.  These efforts will ultimately enable industries like the financial services, petroleum exploration, aerospace, defense and digital content to all have better, more powerful tools available for processing their large volume of data in real-time.

Dr. Eades told us the petroleum industry was one of the first commercial users of supercomputers back in the 1970s.  Their interest continues as petroleum exploration creates huge amounts of field data which must be comprehensively processed before specific patterns are observed indicating where there might be gas or oil.  The use of Cell processors enables their current multi-petabyte level (each petabyte is 1,000 terabytes, or 1,000,000 gigabytes) of input data to be processed much more cost effectively than on traditional supercomputing platforms.  Cell platforms can also be used to display the generated volumetric 3D data much more efficiently in real-time in end-user workstations.

IBM’s research facility will be used as a staging or proving ground for new software algorithms.  The eventual application of multiple Cell blades in a supercomputing configuration will be a logical extension of the models they develop and test at the research center.  In the end, applications like the petroleum industry will have many hundreds of Cell-based computers working on processing all of their data.