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Icons of Progress

Blue Gene

In 2004, the IBM ® Blue Gene ® computer became the fastest supercomputer in the world, delivering unprecedented performance in a compact, low-power design. Using Linux ® software and embedded system-on-a-chip (SoC) technology, the Blue Gene supercomputer radically reduced the size and cost of highly scalable systems, while dramatically increasing performance. Five years later, the Blue Gene project was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by US President Barack Obama.


The IBM Blue Gene/L computer was developed through a collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) located in Livermore, California. When the Blue Gene/L supercomputer was announced in 2004, it had a theoretical peak performance of 360 TFLOPS (one trillion floating-point operations per second) and scored over 280 TFLOPS sustained on the Linpack benchmark. On September 29, 2004, it surpassed NEC’s Earth Simulator as the fastest computer in the world.

After an upgrade in 2007, the performance of the Blue Gene/L computer increased to 478 TFLOPS sustained and 596 TFLOPS peak. In that same year, Blue Gene/P, the second generation of the Blue Gene supercomputer, was unveiled. It nearly tripled the performance of the Blue Gene/L computer, and became the most energy-efficient and space-saving computing package ever built.

Then, in February 2011, IBM’s announced the next-generation Blue Gene supercomputer, nicknamed “Mira,” for the Argonne National Laboratory located outside of Chicago, Illinois. Mira is an unprecedented 10-petaflop Blue Gene/Q supercomputer, and is expected to be operational in 2012, and made available to scientists from industry, academia and government research facilities around the world.

The Blue Gene design uses many small, low-power embedded chips, each connected through five specialized networks inside the system. For example, a Blue Gene system with 65,000 nodes, are interconnected as a 64 x 32 x 32 three-dimensional torus, making it easy to build large systems. The design is modular, composed of “racks” that can be added as requirements grow.

In addition to speed and scalability, Blue Gene supercomputers delivered breakthroughs in energy efficiency. With the creation of Blue Gene computers, IBM dramatically shrank the physical size and energy needs of a computing system whose processing speed would have required a dedicated power plant capable of generating power to thousands of homes.

The influence of the Blue Gene supercomputer’s energy-efficient design and computing model can be seen throughout the IT industry. Today, 17 of the top 20 most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world are built on IBM high-performance computing technology, including the Blue Gene/Q, which was named the “Greenest Supercomputer in the World,” according to the November 2010 Supercomputing “Green500 List” announced by