The Blue Gene, considered as one of the fastest and most powerful computers in the world and developed by the IT-giant IBM, is set to revolutionize the weather early warning systems as well as genomics research in the country. A milestone in Department of Science and Technology’s long-term partnership with IBM in driving the country’s efforts in research and development (R&D), the arrival of the Blue Gene by the last quarter of 2013 puts the country in the map being the first in South East Asia to acquire IBM’s million-dollar supercomputer.
The DOST-IBM tie-up was formally brokered in May 2012 through the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement to set up a permanent R&D laboratory.
“The Blue Gene supercomputer opens many doors for the country and reduces our uncertainty (in R&D). Our vision for a Smarter Philippines needs breakthrough instruments as this (Blue Gene supercomputer) to propel us toward advancement,” said DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo.
Blue Gene would enable local scientists to perform very complex calculations that are otherwise impossible without the aid of said equipment. According to Sec. Montejo, high performance computing machines like the Blue Gene are indispensable in advanced S&T areas requiring high technical and scientific calculations. DOST’s Blue Gene will thus be used for weather and climate modeling, and genomics which is the study of living organisms’ whole set of genes.
“Aside from greatly enhancing our climate change scenarios or modeling, we can make more accurate area-specific weather forecasts and extend our prediction from three days to up to seven days with the help of the IBM Blue Gene,” declared the DOST Chief.
In the area of genomics, the supercomputer will facilitate the analysis and management of data, and provide computational requirements for the recently established Philippine Genome Center, which seeks to explore areas for genomic applications – from varietal improvement of crops, livestock, and other raw materials, to drug discovery and development of advanced, personalized medicines and diagnostic tests, among others.
Meanwhile, IBM executives also reported that Blue Gene’s configuration at 13.9 tera FLOPS (floating point operations per second) enables it to process massive data, aside from possessing amazing hardware capabilities, memory, and processing speed.
“Basically, for a week’s forecast, one can render similar massive data in a multi-core computer and spend weeks and still not finish it. With a supercomputer, it will be much faster than that,” explained Dr. Delfin Jay Sabido IX, IBM research and development executive.
Meanwhile, IBM Senior Vice President Tom Rosamila revealed that the equipment costs over a million dollars but DOST acquired it for just $10 thousand for shipment. “IBM is truly one with DOST to uplift the country’s R&D status,” the IBM executive said.
The supercomputer’s applicability is not limited to just climate modeling and genomics. Other possibilities are being considered by the R&D teams of both DOST and IBM in order to produce more benefits for the country.
The supercomputer is also not exclusive to DOST, said DOST R&D Undersecretary Dr. Amelia P. Guevara. “Other government entities may use it [Blue Gene] for their R&D activities,” she said.