Blue Waters goes forward as Cray Inc. takes IBM's place.
It was disappointing when IBM announced three months ago that it was withdrawing from a joint project with the University of Illinois and the National Science Foundation to build a super supercomputer because of concerns over rising costs.
The news was much better this week when UI officials announced that Cray Inc. is taking IBM's place. The Seattle-based company, one of the pioneers of supercomputing, won a $188 million contract for the work.
Further, the project is moving ahead at a quick pace. The planned computer could be fully operational sometime next summer or fall.
The project's estimated completion date may be sooner than some had expected, particularly after IBM's withdrawal. But even speedier is the planned petascale supercomputer, which is expected to run science and engineering code at the rate of one quadrillion floating point operations per second.
The project cost remains at an estimated $310 million, and that's somewhat ironic because IBM decided to pull out when it became concerned about escalating costs. The Blue Waters name also is expected to stick.
But those facts don't explain much to non-brainiacs.
What's Blue Waters really about? According to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the plan is to build one of the world's most powerful supercomputers with the goal of "creating breakthroughs in nearly all fields of science."
Researchers will be able to predict "the behavior of complex biological systems, understand how the cosmos evolved at the Big Bang, predict the behavior of hurricanes and tornadoes and simulate complex engineering systems" like power grids, airplanes and automobiles.
In other words, it will pave the way for a better understanding of all kinds of complexities that will make positive differences in the lives of ordinary people. That's the real good news coming out of the addition of Cray to the Blue Waters team.