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Blue Gene

To discuss the Blue gene, we must have an idea about supercomputers. Supercomputers are the world’s largest and fastest computers which are primarily used for complex scientific calculations. A supercomputer is more like a desktop or personal computer we have in our home or office premises. They both contain hard drives, memory, and processors. Both desktop or personal computers and supercomputers are equipped with similar processors but their clocking speed and memory sizes are significantly different. Now, take a look at the comparison. A desktop computer built in the year 2000 normally has a hard disk with the data capacity of between 4 and 50 gigabytes and one processor with tens of megabytes of random access memory (RAM) – just enough to perform tasks such as word processing, web browsing, and video gaming. Meanwhile, a supercomputer of the same time period has thousands of processors, hundreds of gigabytes of RAM, and hard drives that allow for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of gigabytes of storage space.

The supercomputer’s large number of processors, extraordinary disk storage, and substantial memory greatly increase the power and speed of the machine. Although desktop computers can perform millions of floating-point operations per second (megaflops), supercomputers can perform at speeds of billions of operations per second (gigaflops) and trillions of operations per second (teraflops).

NASA’s Linux based Super Computer

Now, we will know what Blue Gene is. Blue Gene is a cooperative project among IBM (particularly IBM Rochester and Thomas J. Watson Research Center), the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the United States Department of energy and academia. It is a computer architecture project designed to produce several supercomputers that are designed to reach operating speeds in PFLOPS (peta-FLOPS) range. By using the higher computation process we can understand the importance of various biological processes such as Protein Folding. Exploring more about Biomolecular structures the medical researcher can conclude more deep knowledge about diseases.

Blue Gene supercomputers play a significant role in the blue brain project to carry out the brain simulations. The blue brain project aims to build comprehensive digital reconstructions of the brain which can be used to study the nature of the brain. The project is owned by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and they managed to purchase the Blue Gene supercomputer at a much-reduced cost as IBM wanted to test their supercomputers.

Blue Gene Technology System Architecture

The corporate color of IBM is “Blue” and the “gene” comes from computational biology. There are four blue gene projects under development.

  • Blue Gene/L
  • Blue Gene/P
  • Blue Gene/Q
  • Blue Gene/C

The first supercomputer developed in blue gene series is blue gene L. It is jointly developed with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Blue Gene/L is sometimes specified as the computer used in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Blue Gene/L can acquire a peak speed of over 590 tera-FLOPS and a total memory of 68 tebibytes. The full system has 106,496 dual-processor compute nodes. Nodes are configured as a 32 x 32 x 64 3D torus and each node is connected in six different directions for nearest-neighbor communications. Multiple global barriers and interrupt networks allow fast synchronization of tasks across the entire machine within a few microseconds.

Blue Gene/C is a sister computer project of BlueGene/L. It is now named as Cyclops64. It is the first supercomputer designed in a chip. The Blue Gene C gives the programmer adequate freedom to write high-level structural software. But it is quite difficult to write some efficient coding on Blue Gene C. The theoretical peak performance of this is 80 gigabytes.

In June 2007, IBM unveiled BlueGene/P, the second generation of the Blue Gene series of supercomputers and designed through a collaboration that included IBM, LLNL, and Argonne National Laboratory’s Leadership Computing Facility. The design of Blue Gene/P is a technology evolution from Blue Gene/L. Each Blue Gene/P Compute chip contains four PowerPC 450processor cores, running at 850 MHz. The cores are cache coherent and the chip can operate as a 4-way symmetric multi-processor (SMP). The memory subsystem on the chip consists of small private L2 caches, a central shared 8 MB L3 cache, and dual DDR2 memory controllers. The chip also integrates the logic for node-to-node communication, using the same network topologies as BlueGene/L, but at more than twice the bandwidth. A compute card contains a Blue Gene/P chip with 2 or 4 GB DRAM, comprising a “compute node”. A single compute node has a peak performance of 13.6 GFLOPS. 32 Compute cards are plugged into an air-cooled node board. A rack contains 32 node boards (thus 1024 nodes, 4096 processor cores).[By using many small, low-power, densely packaged chips, BlueGene/P exceeded the power efficiency of other supercomputers of its generation, and at 371 MFLOPS/W BlueGene/P installations ranked at or near the top of the Green500 lists in 2007-2008.

The last known supercomputer is Blue Gene/Q. It has achieved a performance peak of 20 petaFlops in 2011. It has enhanced the performance as its frequency. It becomes more energy efficient. The Blue Gene/Q is a 5-rack, 5120 node IBM Blue Gene/Q. Each node consists of a 16-core 1.6 GHz A2 processor, with 16 GB of DDR3 memory.

So in this article, we got the knowledge of what the blue gene technology is, its architecture, applications and basic ideas. We can say that the making of blue gene series computers will influence the future of computer development and research.