We’ll hand it to IBM’s researchers. They think big - really big. Like holy-crap-what-have-you-done big.
The Register has unearthed a research paper that shows IBM working on a computing system capable “of hosting the entire internet as an application.” This mega system relies on a re-tooled version of IBM’s Blue Gene supercomputers so loved by the high performance computing crowd. IBM’s researchers have proposed tweaking the Blue Gene systems to run today’s most popular web applications such as Linux, Apache, MySQL and Ruby on Rails.
The IBM paper rightly points out that both large SMP (symmetric multi-processing) systems and clusters have their merits for massive computing tasks. Of late, however, most organizations looking to crunch through really big jobs have preferred clusters, which provide certain economic advantages. Customers can buy lots of general purpose hardware and networking components at a low cost and cobble the systems together to equal or surpass the performance of gigantic SMPs.
Sun Microsystems, Amazon.com, Google and Microsoft stand as just some of the companies using these clusters to offer software, processing power and storage to other businesses. Their customers tap into these larger systems and can “grow” their applications as needed by firing up more and more of the provided computing infrastructure.
But there are a few problems with this approach, including the amount of space and energy the clusters require. So, IBM wants to angle Blue Gene boxes at the web software jobs, believing it can run numerous applications on a single box at a lower cost than a cluster.
“We hypothesize that for a large class of web-scale workloads the Blue Gene/P platform is an order of magnitude more efficient to purchase and operate than the commodity clusters in use today,” the IBM researchers wrote.
Under a project code-named ‘Kittyhawk,’ IBM has started running new types of applications on Blue Gene. For example, it has run the SpecJBB benchmark for testing Java performance and the LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL Perl/Phython) software, finding comparable performance to today’s clusters.