King Abdullah U and IBM Join To Build Middle East's Most Powerful Supercomputer

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and IBM have announced a joint project to build and conduct research on one of the most complex, high-performance computing (HPC) systems in the world. The new system, named Shaheen, will serve the university's scientific researchers across multiple 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 that, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, can reach dive speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, making it the fastest animal in the world. 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 Middle East. 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. It's 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 supercomputer will offer 65,536 independent processing cores coupled in a three-dimensional network.

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, NY, and is ready to provide HPC services to KAUST's research partners throughout the world. These include MIT in Massachusetts, 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.

KAUST and IBM have negotiated terms for joint ownership of intellectual property for commercial use.

"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," said Majid Al-Ghaslan, KAUST's interim CIO. "It will become a magnet for the best research minds in the world."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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