Quick look at IBM’s Blue Gene supercomputer series


Blue Gene is an IBM research project devoted to researching the limits in supercomputing – in the software needed to program and handle extremely parallel systems, in computer architecture, and in the usage of computation to progress our comprehension of significant biological processes like protein folding.

The aim of this project is to design a sequence of high performance SoC (System on Chip) architectures with the least power demands, while reaching operating speeds in the range of peta FLOPS (PFLOPS).

Blue Gene/L

Blue Gene/L (functions on Linux) uses several processors. This series demands the least electric current. Since this series dispels comparatively little energy in the form of heat in proportion to its computational power, it is also known as Frost. The architecture of Blue Gene/L utilizes two processors on a chip. For instance, 2048 processors (1024 Blue Gene nodes) can be configures in one rack, demanding almost 25 kW of electricity. The fact that many processors can be put into small gap interprets compactness and scalability. The smaller physical dimensions do not imply that it exhibits low computing speed since this speed is extraordinary.


Cyclops64 is the first supercomputer-on-a-chip architecture that is still in the developmental stage. It is being developed by IBM in a joint collaboration with US Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Energy, and industry and academic partners.

Every 64-bit Cyclops64 processor will function at 500 MHz and comprise of 80 processors, with each processor having 2 thread units and 1 floating point unit. The processors will communicate with one another through global interleaved memory in SRAM.

Theoretically, the peak performance of one Cyclops64 chip is 80 gigaflops. A complete system would include 13,824 C64 chips with 1,105,920 processors that have the ability to run 2,211,840 synchronized threads.

Blue Gene/P

Blue Gene/P was revealed in 2007 and was designed in such a way that it can run continuously at 1 petaflop with a maximum speed of 3 petaflops. Simultaneously, it is 7 times more energy efficient than any other supercomputer. Blue Gene/Q, which is still under development, is likely to reach a speed of 20 petaflops.

IBM revealed the second generation of the Blue Gene sequence of supercomputers called Blue Gene/P in June 2007. It was designed by a joint venture between IBM, Leadership Computing Facility of Argonne National Laboratory, and LLNL.

The design of this series is a technology evolution from the previous Blue Gene/L. Each of these computer chips comprises of 4 PowerPC 450 processor cores that run at 850 MHz.

Blue Gene/P found use in various applications. It was used to simulate almost 1% of human cortex, including 1.6B neurons with the help of 9 trillion connections.

Blue Gene/Q

This supercomputer design targets to reach 20 petaflops by the end of 2012, as IBM persists to extend and improve upon the earlier L/P architectures. This Computing chip has 18 cores. Speaking about its performance, the first Blue Gene/Q system (with 65536 user processor cores and 4096 nodes) achieved the 17th rank in the listing of Top 500 with 677.1 TeraFLOPS Linpack, surpassing the original BlueGene/L installation.

The Blue Gene/Q systems also scored the topmost position in the Green 500 list of the most energy efficient supercomputers with around 2 GFLOPS/W. It is currently rated as world’s fastest machine. (Jolie Fulton)

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