Shell set to deploy largest ever Linux supercomputer

IBM has developed the largest ever Linux-based supercomputer for use by Shell in its geophysical oil and gas exploration.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  December 17, 2000

IBM has developed the largest ever Linux-based supercomputer for use by Shell in its geophysical oil and gas exploration.

IBM has announced that it will develop and deploy the world’s largest Linux supercomputer for Shell International Exploration & Production (SIEP). Shell will use the supercomputer to process seismic and other geophysical exploration data.

The system, which will be based at SIEP headquarters in the Netherlands, should be up and running by the middle of January 2001. It will use Genesis Beowulf clustering to join 1024 IBM x-series servers, all running Linux Redhat 6.2 into the largest Linux cluster ever.

Ben van den Brule, head of novel technology for SEIP said the supercomputer will change the way that Shell looks at its exploration data: “This will be a big jump technically,” he said. “Shell is already a leading company in seismic processing with superior processing algorithms, however up to now we have not been able to take full advantage of this due to the huge amount of computing power necessary. The way we do our work will now change, with the arrival of the Genesis Linux Beowulf cluster, we can now turn this data around in a fraction of the time, this will provide major benefits fro our clients worldwide.”

The decision to deploy a Linux supercluster was originally proposed by Shell’s GameChanger program, an internal initiative to promote and develop new ideas. The cluster will enable other GameChanger projects on exploration data analysis, opening new areas of research to Shell.

“A new wave of enthusiasm for integrated research topics has been generated by the prospect,” said Jack Buur, Shell’s system designer for the Linux project. “The computer will have applications in research and development in areas such as advanced seismic imaging, reservoir modelling and risk analysis.”

Shell chose Linux because of it’s the benefits of flexible, open source software. “The fact that Shell has decided to run these applications on an IBM Linux supercomputer demonstrates that Linux is coming of age,” said Irving Wladawsky Berger, vice president of technology and strategy for IBM.

“It shows that Linux can scale to meet the high-workload demands of even the most progressive supercomputing tasks.”

There are number of supercomputers worldwide that are dedicated to oil and gas exploration. ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia has two of the top 100 supercomputers in the world, both IBM machines, although Linux is a relatively new development in the field.

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