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UPDATE: Celera, Compaq, Sandia Labs to Collaborate on Supercomputer

NEW YORK, Jan 19 – Celera is collaborating with Compaq Computer and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories to develop a supercomputer by 2004 that will be capable of 100 trillion operations per second, eight times faster than the fastest supercomputer currently available, the Department of Energy announced Friday.

The supercomputer and associated software will be designed to tackle the growing processing demands of computational biology and other life sciences applications.

Compaq and Sandia will jointly design and build the supercomputer, using Compaq Alpha processors connected in parallel configuration with extremely high bandwidth and low latency mesh interconnects , the companies said. Celera will provide consultation on applications for life sciences.

Additionally, Sandia will provide Celera with expert consultation on development of software for the computer that will analyze its genomic and other data, and Celera will pay Sandia approximately $30 to $40 million over the next four years. Under the agreement, neither Sandia nor Celera will be obligated to buy the supercomputer.

" The key aspect of this R&D relationship is the simultaneous provision of algorithmic support, design of actual application software, and development of the system platform by three organizations with world-class competence in their respective areas," Bill Blake, vice president of high performance technical computing at Compaq, said in a statement. " This effort is a direct response to the challenge by Celera's president, J. Craig Venter, who said that even the most powerful of today's supercomputers do not meet the needs of his company's work in the genomic era.”

This joint initiative could be overshadowed by IBM’s $100 million effort, launched in 1999, to build Blue Gene, a life sciences supercomputer capable of performing one quadrillion operations per second.

“Blue Gene is going to be ten times more powerful and faster” than the Compaq-Sandia computer, said Anne Marie Derouault, IBM Life Sciences Director of Business Development and Marketing.

Compaq told the New York Times Friday that its machine would have a broader use than Blue Gene, which is initially being designed to simulate protein folding.

But Derouault insisted that Blue Gene also “is going to be applicable to the broadest possible range of problems. We have taken an example about protein folding-a concrete example to test the machine, but it can be applied to any problem in life sciences and even beyond life sciences.”

Celera and Compaq also hope to ultimately make their machine capable of processing the same amount of information as Blue Gene.

At 11 A.M. Eastern Standard Time Friday, Celera CEO Craig Venter and Paul Robinson, President of the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories, participated in an official ceremony at the Department of Energy building in Washington, with Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, to sign the collaboration agreement.

A press conference offering further details was scheduled to follow.

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