NET NEWS: IBM Launches Supercomputing Institute

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Science  04 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5420, pp. 1583
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5420.1583c

Hoping to spur the use of supercomputers in science and business, IBM has formed a virtual “deep computing” research center that will seek to interact with outside scientists, starting with sharing the secrets to IBM software that turns enormous data sets into images.

Scientists use parallel processing supercomputers—some of which can perform trillions of operations per second—to tackle giant problems like the way a protein folds, how weather patterns shift, and the big bang. IBM last week announced it's putting its $29 million a year of supercomputing research under one virtual roof, called the Deep Computing Institute (DCI). Named after Deep Blue, the chess-playing program that defeated Grand Master Gary Kasparov, the institute wants “to take the modeling that scientists are used to and extend it to business decision-making,” such as managing investment risk and scheduling airline routes, says William Pulleyblank, DCI's director.

The institute also wants to get academic scientists involved, starting with a Web site where it has just released the source code to IBM Visualization Data Explorer—software for turning data crunched on a supercomputer into understandable pictures. The site will also offer other freebies, like IBM problem sets for testing algorithms, and DCI will sponsor scientific conferences. That's good both for IBM—which will generate demand for its supercomputers—and for outside scientists, who can now tinker with and improve the software, says Rice University's Ken Kennedy, a member of DCI's advisory board of scientists and business leaders.

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