University of Toronto Acquires IBM's Nehalem-driven Supercomputer
The University of Toronto’s SciNet Consortium and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today
announced an agreement to build Canada’s most powerful and energy-efficient
The consortium, which includes the University of Toronto and associated
research hospitals, will enhance SciNet’s competitive position in globally
important research projects. These include ground-breaking research in
aerospace, astrophysics, bioinformatics, chemical physics, climate change
prediction, medical imaging and the global ATLAS project, which is investigating
the forces that govern the universe.
Capable of performing 360 trillion calculations per second, the supercomputer
will pioneer an innovative hybrid design containing two systems that can work
together or independently, connected to a massive five petabyte storage complex.
Because it is a hybrid using IBM’s highly efficient iDataPlex system, as well as
IBM’s advanced POWER6 architecture, the machine is extremely flexible, capable
of running a wide range of software at a high level of performance.
As a premier academic research system, the machine is expected to be among
the top 20 fastest supercomputers in the world; 30 times faster than the peak
performance of Canada’s current largest research system. It also represents the
second largest system ever built on a university campus, and the largest
supercomputer outside the United States.
“The University of Toronto has partnered with IBM to become one of the
world’s premier computational research institutions – a collaboration that will
attract researchers from around the world,” said Dr. Richard Peltier, Scientific
Director of SciNet and Director of the Centre for Global Change Science.
As a physicist whose interests are focused on planetary physics and climate
change prediction, Dr. Peltier’s work includes research on the impacts of
greenhouse gas-induced global warming, which will be greatly enhanced by this
system. The SciNet facility will be one of the world’s most advanced
supercomputers for analyzing high-resolution global models to predict future
risks, such as the accelerating decrease in Artic sea ice. An immediate project
will be the construction of regional climate change predictions for the Province
of Ontario and Great Lakes watershed region.
Another area of research for this system will be to explore the modern
scientific mystery of why matter has mass and what constitutes the mass of the
universe. Beginning in September, the Large Hadron Collider project based in
Geneva, the most powerful particle accelerator ever built, will produce vast
quantities of data, which scientists hope will be begin to unlock these
mysteries. SciNet’s computing power and storage capacity will be a significant
contributor to the data analysis.
“SciNet will have one of the best facilities in the world that will allow
Canadian physicists to participate in the adventure of the Large Hadron
Collider,” said Dr. Pierre Savard, a member of the Canadian group working at
CERN, Geneva. “This research may change our view of matter and the
This facility will involve the largest implementation of IBM’s iDataPlex
system, which holds twice as many processors per unit as standard systems and is
entirely water cooled. More than 4,000 servers will be linked together in this
multi-platform solution, including one of the world’s largest POWER6 clusters
and Intel x86-based clusters. This IBM supercomputer will be one of the
first systems to use Future Intel® Nehalem processor families, being introduced
in early 2009.
“A system this complex could only be designed by bringing together the best
minds from the University of Toronto and IBM,” said Chris Pratt, Strategic
Initiatives Executive, IBM Canada. “This is a tremendous example of public and
private collaboration that will benefit the Canadian research community for many
years to come.”
Funding has been provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s
National Platforms Fund, in partnership with the Province of Ontario and the
University of Toronto.
Construction of this extremely energy efficient datacenter will begin
immediately at a facility just north of Toronto. Installation of the system will
begin in the fall with several milestones throughout the winter. It is
anticipated that both of the main computing systems will be fully operational by