Friday, March 26, 2010

The most beautiful supercomputer in the world?

During his keynote speech at ECRI 2010 Francesc Subirada, the associate director of BSC-CNS, remarked that MareNostrum - the supercomputer they host - may not be the most powerful in the world, but it is the most beautiful.

Yesterday, along with other delegates at ECRI 2010, I visited MareNostrum to find out if that statement was true.

The story of MareNostrum began in March 2004, when the Spanish government and IBM signed an agreement to build one of the fastest computers in Europe. BSC-CNS was set up and started work the following year, but did not have long (just four months!) to build MareNostrum. With such short time on their hands, they were unable to build a dedicated building for the new supercomputer so instead identified an existing building that was large enough to host the machine. Surprisingly the best candidate for the job was a chapel, Torre Girona, which had enough interior space to fit in MareNostrum as well as enough height to ensure the the system could be effectively cooled.

Today, after an increase in capacity in November 2006, MareNostrum is the 77th most powerful computer in the world, as named in November 2009's Top500 list. It aids research in areas such as Computational Sciences, Life Sciences and Earth Sciences. And, although my photos may not show it, I can say it is indeed very beautiful. Take a peek at more photos of Mare Nostrum here.

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