CORVALLIS - An IBM RS-6000 SP parallel processing computer is coming on-line at Oregon State University as part of a continuing partnership between IBM and OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

The supercomputer will support the college's ongoing research into ocean dynamics and global climate as well as explore high performance computing capabilities in developing numerical models of the ocean and using vast amounts of data.

"The ocean plays a crucial role in the climate system," said Mark Abbott, OSU professor of oceanography. "It stores enormous amounts of heat and is responsible for much of the world's biological productivity. Subtle changes in ocean circulation can have profound influences not only on the health of the marine ecosystem, but also on regional and global weather patterns."

Abbott is principal investigator for a research project at OSU, part of NASA's Earth Observing System, a study of the ocean-atmosphere-land system. The system will use satellite sensors to investigate the Earth and the program will be the basis for future studies and observations of Earth's climate.

The OSU project was chosen by IBM to participate in its Shared University Research program, through which IBM provides equipment to support research projects of mutual interest, including innovative applications that use high performance computing. The project will explore applications such as data mining, where large archives are searched and information delivered to the researcher's desktop, as well as development of ocean models that will be used to predict the response of the ocean to climate change.

"IBM believes research partnerships between universities and business provide value to both by advancing the uses of information technology and by helping researchers explore exciting new opportunities," said Sean Rush, general manager of IBM higher education.

Rush noted that OSU recently was ranked fifth in the nation in oceanography by the National Research Council. "We are optimistic that this research partnership with OSU will make a real difference in the future."

Rather than relying on costly, custom-made components, the RS-6000 SP supercomputer is assembled from standard hardware. This allows the machine to be upgraded rapidly and easily, as faster computers become available. Using sophisticated software and a high-speed internal network, the computer links processors together to deliver supercomputer performance at costs below that of traditional supercomputers.

"This new machine is more flexible than earlier machines and it is easily expandable as our computing needs grow," Abbott said. "The RS-6000 SP will allow us to be among the leaders in oceanographic research, while keeping costs low."

Around the world, nations are confronted with increasing pressures to respond to the issue of climate change, according to G. Brent Dalrymple, dean of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU.

"From increasing demands for fresh water to the decline of ocean fisheries, we must have a sound scientific basis from which to make informed policies," Dalrymple said. "This partnership with IBM is another example of the value of combing the assets of government, industry and higher education to improve our knowledge of the Earth system."

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Mark Abbott, 541-737-4045