Tanaiste outlines importance of new supercomputer


IRELAND'S SUCCESS in fostering collaborative research between academics and industry will demonstrate our success in achieving a knowledge economy, the Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has said. Building these links is "hugely important" to the country's economic future.

Ms Coughlan was speaking at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin yesterday at the formal launch of Ireland's most powerful computer, the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer.

The installation of the supercomputer, a collaboration involving IBM, the Government and third-level institutions, would open the way to important scientific discoveries, she said.

"We know if we are to create economic opportunities for our people we would have to invest in research," she said.

"Today is a clear message of what we are trying to do as a country."

The Blue Gene is already up and running and installed in the HEAnet facility in Blanchardstown, Dublin. It is operated by the Irish Centre for High End Computing and can be accessed by the country's universities, institutes of technology and others including the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and the Tyndall National Institute in Cork.

Access to the device was "a hugely important development" for researchers here, the Tánaiste said.

The system would give Irish scientists direct access to one of the most powerful computers anywhere in Europe, said Larry Hirst, chairman of IBM Europe, Middle East and Africa, who attended the launch. It would support research and invention but was also "producing real benefits for society", he said.

Mr Hirst mentioned research efforts to develop a computer system that can read and interpret mammogram X-rays more accurately than the human eye, work dependent on the use of supercomputers.

Irish scientists will now be able to participate in this and other advanced research projects by linking to other Blue Gene sites abroad, he added.

The Blue Gene ranks as Ireland's most powerful computer and one of the most powerful in Europe. It can carry out 11.4 million million calculations per second.

It will provide scientists here with the ability to model individual molecules and study new materials and experimental electronics, said Dr Damien Thompson, of the Tyndall institute, who uses the supercomputer to model biological molecules and new materials for possible use in advanced electronic devices.