IBM invests in new supercomputing and green IT R&D operation

25 Nov 2008

IBM is to create 40 top-quality research positions at its operation in Ireland, as well as in Irish universities, to focus on the future of supercomputing and green data centres.

The investment will be supported by the Irish Government through development agency IDA Ireland.

IBM is establishing what it describes as an exascale stream computing research ‘collaboratory’ at its Dublin campus at Mulhuddart, where over 3,000 people are employed.

An IBM collaboratory is a laboratory where IBM researchers co-locate with a university, government or commercial partner to share skills and resources to achieve a common research goal.

A collaboratory allows IBM researchers the opportunity to pursue research outside IBM’s labs and existing business units by working with other institutions around the world that have different expertise, environments or access to partners.

The collaboration benefits all parties involved, allowing them to share resource experiences, technical assets, learn from each other, more quickly produce innovations and establish the research ecosystem.

“Choosing Ireland as a preferred location for global research centres is significant for Ireland and is in line with IDA Ireland’s strategy of developing high-value knowledge-based R&D projects with leading technology companies,” said Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan TD.

“Today’s announcement strengthens the computational science capability of Ireland in line with the Government’s Strategy for Science and Technology 2006-2013. It is a further endorsement of the excellent long-standing relationship between IBM and Irish universities.

 “This is the third announcement by IBM in R&D activities in Ireland this year, following on from the advanced water management and cloud computing R&D centres we announced this year. This illustrates how IDA Ireland can create opportunities and assist highly valued companies such as IBM to achieve their business goals.”

The agreement will see IBM supercomputing and multidisciplinary experts work directly with university researchers from Trinity College Dublin, Tyndall National Institute in Cork, National University of Ireland Galway, University College Cork and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology to develop computing architectures and technologies that overcome the current limitations of dealing with massive volumes of real-time data and analysis.

While high-performance computing today primarily focuses on scientific applications in areas such as physics or medicine, the exascale research in Dublin will focus on how these new powerful computing systems can be applied to solving complex business problems.  The research will include both technical and applications research.

For example, the application research for exascale computing will study financial services using real-time, intelligent analysis of a company’s valuation developed from business models using data from investor profiles, live-market trading and RSS news feeds. The research will also focus on making sense of the volume of data from social networks to understand rapidly evolving and changing business trends and opportunities.

The technical research will explore innovative ways of using new memory architectures, interconnecting technologies and fabric structures, and will evaluate business applications that would benefit from an exascale streaming platform.

 “IBM’s collaboratory strategy will be a vital part of how we will work to apply intelligence to improve the way the world works and solve our clients’ toughest problems,” explained Michael Daly, country general manager of IBM Ireland.

“A collaboratory is not a place, but it’s an integration of teams who can achieve more by working together than working alone.

“The collaboration between Irish universities and IBM will not only work on exascale stream computing, but will aim to apply sophisticated and unprecedented computing power to solve the seemingly insurmountable problems businesses are facing today, such as inefficient supply chains, energy shortage, managing risk and more.”

IBM also announced plans to work with researchers at the University of Limerick and the IBM Watson Centre to design a new generation of data centres at its Dublin Technology Campus.

“Competitive advantage today comes both from being able to attract the best skills and talents, wherever they are in the world, and the ability to integrate them globally to innovate for clients,” said Dr John Kelly III, senior vice-president and director of IBM Research.

“There is a wealth of academic and research expertise in Ireland, and our goal is to harness that talent and link it to our capabilities around the world to best meet the needs of our clients,” Kelly said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years