NIWA upgrade to use UK Met castoffs, with greenwashing by IBM press machine

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Word from a reader down under gives us a little more insight into the recently announced NIWA purchase.

According to published reports, the NIWA system is based on Power 6, 32-way 4.7 GHz nodes, and the purchase includes an upgrade in 2011 that will bring the system to a total of 3,456 processors and 65 TFLOPS (scroll down near the bottom of that story). This upgrade will add 1,664 Power 6 4.7 GHz processors to NIWA’s capability — processors currently in use by the UK Met office according to my source, and presumably set to be displaced when IBM upgrades that office’s computers in 2011 (part of the current 5-year contract UK Met has with IBM). That’s about half of one of UK Met’s p575/p6 systems, on the current Top500 list at numbers 73 and 74.

Even more interestingly, the press coverage about NIWA’s purchase includes this paragraph (or variations of it in the different stories (here, for example, and here is another example). These articles pulled that bit of info from IBM’s press release, as follows

A recent survey by found that IBM supercomputers are the most energy efficient in the world.

This is true, but irrelevant to the hardware the NIWA is buying. Those super energy efficient systems topping the Green500 are IBM QS22 and Blue Gene systems. The Power575/p6 with 4.7 GHz chips (the NIWA system) don’t appear on the list until position 202, and the only Power575 appearing before this one is Environment Canada’s machine at #130, and that one is the 1.9 GHz version.

IBM deserves props for its energy leadership, but this is a craven grab to paint its whole lineup with a green brush. Why try so hard to spin the story? This is possibly a reaction to the recent spate of bad press the UK Met has gotten for its IBM supers, or an attempt to get out in front of controversy in New Zealand where the energy envelope is pretty tight as we reported last year. Either way, nasty bit of truth stretching there by IBM.


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