Sometimes, A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Megabytes

Researchers trying to simulate phenomena such as car crashes and hurricanes are having difficulty coping with all the reams of data produced by their supercomputers.

To help, IBM has just rolled out a specialized computer that can turn masses of numbers into highly detailed, full-color motion pictures. IBM's Power Visualization system uses as many as 32 reduced instruction-set computing microprocessors, which together can execute 2.5 billion math operations per second. Adding to the machine's power is its ability to pull in, from another supercomputer, as many as 100 million characters of information per second--more than most graphics computers can handle.

IBM is promoting the machine, to be delivered later this year, as proof that the troubled computer maker is learning how to get products to market faster. The system, which costs $500,000 to $2 million, was developed in about two years by a relatively independent IBM team. Team members frequently discussed the design with potential customers but rarely called on IBM manufacturing and marketing departments.

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