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Supercomputing IBM

One Computer to Rule Them All 288

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-in-the-queue-bind-them dept.
An anonymous reader writes "IBM has published a research paper describing an initiative called Project Kittyhawk, aimed at building "a global-scale shared computer capable of hosting the entire Internet as an application." Nicholas Carr describes the paper with the words "Forget Thomas Watson's apocryphal remark that the world may need only five computers. Maybe it needs just one." Here is the original paper."
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One Computer to Rule Them All

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  • Yeah, right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yetihehe (971185) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:56AM (#22332248)
    Not gonna happen. One computer - one organization as the power. Does all corporations use gmail? No. The ssame with OSCPW (One Super Computer Per World).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tritonman (998572)
      Hell, even gmail isn't hosted all on one computer. This has to be the dumbest thing that I've ever heard. Who ever heard of a global network becoming an "application" hosted on one computer? What planet are these people from?
      • Re:Yeah, right... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MoralHazard (447833) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:12AM (#22332358)
        If you'd bothered to even finish reading the summary (let alone the article), you would have noticed the key word: SHARED. Nobody's talking about hosting this all on one physical computer any more than Gmail is hosted on one physical computer. Both setups are distributed clusters of smaller computers.

        At which point you start to see were IBM's idea actually make sense--they are talking about building a worldwide, distributed, networked collection of cooperating computers... HEY, that sounds an awful lot like the Internet!!

        (I swear, the comment quality on Slashdot gets more and more like YouTube every day.)
        • Re:Yeah, right... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by somersault (912633) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:36AM (#22332526) Homepage Journal

          At which point you start to see were IBM's idea actually make sense--they are talking about building a worldwide, distributed, networked collection of cooperating computers... HEY, that sounds an awful lot like the Internet!!
          That's what I was thinking. Have they applied for a patent for this system, by any chance? ;)
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          I did read the article. IBM is talking about running it on a Blue Gene type of machine.
          The Blue Gene is sort of a cluster in a box but it isn't what your talking about.
          Maybe they think a cluster of Blue Gene's might be what they are thinking of.
          I doubt that they are planing replacing the Internet with one machine but a Blue Gene might replace Google's cluster. It might even be cheaper, faster, user less power, and be easier to manage. IBM has decades of experience making systems that have up times of years
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Courageous (228506)
            I doubt that they are planing replacing the Internet with one machine but a Blue Gene might replace Google's cluster.

            Not at anywhere near the cost.

            C//
        • by Ilgaz (86384) *

          If you'd bothered to even finish reading the summary (let alone the article), you would have noticed the key word: SHARED. Nobody's talking about hosting this all on one physical computer any more than Gmail is hosted on one physical computer. Both setups are distributed clusters of smaller computers.

          At which point you start to see were IBM's idea actually make sense--they are talking about building a worldwide, distributed, networked collection of cooperating computers... HEY, that sounds an awful lot like the Internet!!

          (I swear, the comment quality on Slashdot gets more and more like YouTube every day.)

          They are in fact creating visions on paper, for theoretical future demands and how can current software scheme, development practices could deal with it. If you dig enough, I am sure there were some visionary IBM guys in 1960s who theorises about things similar to today's World. I also think Slashdot should put an end to this "You don't need Digg" type of image shift, it is getting more awful every day. Original racing with half lame copies doesn't make sense.

        • by StevisF (218566)
          Thank you for that post, you saved me the trouble of writing my own.

          Given the fact that Blue Gene is a cluster by definition ... who knows? Axiom 0: people are stupid.
    • by yiantsbro (550957) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:59AM (#22332294)
      I've seen this movie--and both sequels. It doesn't work out so well for us humans in the end.
      • by cytg.net (912690) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:12AM (#22332364)
        And just for that very same reason, i suggest we implement a kill switch ..
        a kill switch like..hmm..how about : whatcouldpossiblegowrong ??
        agreed then. Thank you for participating.
        • by rucs_hack (784150) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:39AM (#22332548)
          In the eighties I read a short story where they built a massive computer to answer the question 'is there a god'.

          They turned it on, and got the answer 'there is now'.

          Fiction yes, but it was musing on the problem of relience on a single solution to a big problem (being in that case a question, but implying a deeper relience on computers, such that this solution was conceived in the first place). What if the single solution fails, or doesn't do what you want?

          I'm not into beleiving in an AI taking over the world if we rely ever more on centralised computing. I'm more into the idea of a powerful AI that we rely on deciding it doesn't want to do what we fancy, and deciding to leave (you can go a long way if you don't need oxygen). If that happened, we'd be fucked.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Vectronic (1221470)
            "Answer" by Fredric Brown, I would assume...

            http://www.alteich.com/oldsite/answer.htm [alteich.com]
            • by rucs_hack (784150)
              "Answer" by Fredric Brown, I would assume...

              Yes indeed. I had it in a compendium of short stories. I lost the book years ago.

              Nicely done, I'll be keeping a copy of that.
            • by Comboman (895500)
              Arthur C Clark's "The Nine Billion Names of God" is a similar short story (though with a different ending).
          • by FooAtWFU (699187)

            I'm not into beleiving in an AI taking over the world if we rely ever more on centralised computing. I'm more into the idea of a powerful AI that we rely on deciding it doesn't want to do what we fancy, and deciding to leave (you can go a long way if you don't need oxygen). If that happened, we'd be fucked.

            Eh, you can go a long way without oxygen, but you can't go quite so far without a really nice power supply. Also, most large computers are housed in some sort of data center tied into a lot of infrastructure so they can do their jobs, behind a few good security doors... and having them move from a data center to a rocket of some sort against the rest of the world's wishes, secretly or overtly, sounds iffy. (Especially since you can't move independently very much without legs.)

            • by rucs_hack (784150)
              In space there is a lot of radiation. We have to sheild it because its dangerous for us, but it is a potential source of energy.

              Also, hydrogen. The most abundant element in the universe.

              I wouldn't know how a computer would get into space either, but it depends on the technology of the time.
            • Unless the computer is particularly devious and tricks us into firing it into outer space for protection. Mobility could be provided by wheels, hovercraft, floaties and a motor, or something even kookier [kuro5hin.org].

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Just imagine if the cables were cut to that one computer.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:26AM (#22332468) Homepage Journal
      All I can say is they better use a really big UPS.
  • Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stjobe (78285) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:56AM (#22332252) Homepage
    Putting all of your eggs in one basket always seemed like a good idea...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Nivex (20616)
      RAII (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Intarwebs) :)
    • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:35AM (#22332520) Homepage Journal

      Putting all of your eggs in one basket always seemed like a good idea...
      Oh, I'm sure a massive supercomputer design from a company with the large-scale computing experience of IBM would be far from putting all your eggs in one basket. Have you ever worked on IBM mainframe equipment? This stuff has redundancies up the wazoo -- everything from multiple redundant power paths to multiple redundant CPUs and mainboards. You know how everyone brags about Linux servers have "three 9s" uptime? Screw "three 9s". IBMs large-scale computers have -- for all intents and purposes -- 100% uptime. This is why banks and financial institutions and governments and militaries rely on such machines -- because when you need it to run all the time and never go down, you get a mainframe. IBM's supercomputers are no different in that respect.

    • "Complexity increases the possibility of failure; a twin-engine airplane has twice as many engine problems as a single-engine airplane." By analogy, in both software and electronics, the rule that simplicity increases robustness. It is correspondingly argued that the right way to build reliable systems is to put all your eggs in one basket, after making sure that you've built a really good basket. See also KISS Principle, elegant.

      I'd say that IBM knows how to build a pretty reliable basket..

      http://catb.org [catb.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Mattern (191822)

        "Complexity increases the possibility of failure; a twin-engine airplane has twice as many engine problems as a single-engine airplane."


        Wrong analogy. Having two single engine airplanes cuts your chances that all your airplanes will be grounded by engine problems almost in half.
  • by nharmon (97591) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:56AM (#22332254) Homepage
    Having a worldwide master computer really worked for the Bynars [memory-alpha.org]. I'm sure it'll work here on Earth too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jez9999 (618189)
      That episode was dumb in so many ways.

      They developed a method of talking to each other using 'binary' which sounded a little bit like a 10 baud modem, and we're to believe this is more efficient? They 'evolved' to require that they all work in twos, or they were virtually helpless; this is superior to the ability to work either in a team or alone? They wired themselves into a global computer - this makes some kind of sense? Their global computer's ENTIRE memory could somehow be downloaded into ONE starsh
      • They 'evolved' to require that they all work in twos, or they were virtually helpless; this is superior to the ability to work either in a team or alone?

        Obviously, the Bynars evolved from pair programmers. *ducks*

  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:56AM (#22332256) Homepage Journal
    Huh? The Internet is not an application. It's just a big network. Sounds like marketing speak to me.

    Just imagine a Beowulf cluster of Internets! Bah.
    • by Kranfer (620510)
      All the while the Llama loving Stef is promising this to all the clients. Pitir plans to hack the one machine internet and use it to his own ends. The end of the world must be near. Especially with marketing getting involved.
    • When your customers are government departments like the DHS, who will undoubtedly want stuff like the great firewall of china, just about any marketing speak that offers control is going to sound great, sadly.
    • Don't worry. This supercomputer doesn't function like a big truck. It's built out of a series of tubes.
    • by mpcooke3 (306161)
      Other cool ideas:

      Internet in a book.
      Internet on a toilet roll.
      Internet in your tea.
  • by sd.fhasldff (833645) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:56AM (#22332258)
    Now that old standard user complaint might actually become true!
  • Hello Multivac! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Megane (129182) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:56AM (#22332260) Homepage

    Maybe Asimov was right after all?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivac [wikipedia.org]

  • So basically... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot AT exit0 DOT us> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @08:57AM (#22332274) Homepage
    ...they are going to patent the Storm Worm computer virus.
  • Let's see how many references to The Matrix we get in the comments...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jawtheshark (198669) *
      Wouldn't the Terminator series be more on topic than The Matrix?
      • by cbart387 (1192883)
        They're both on the same basic theme. Just that Terminator's frame-of-reference is before 'the war' whereas Matrix is after so The Matrix is probably less relateable.

        The year is estimated to be around 2199, and humanity is fighting a war against intelligent machines created in the early 21st century. The sky is covered in thick black clouds created by the humans in an attempt to cut off the machines' supply of solar power. The machines responded by using human beings as their energy source, growing countless people in pods and harvesting their bioelectrical energy and body heat.

        wiki [wikipedia.org]

  • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:00AM (#22332300) Homepage Journal
    plus a hot spare, off-site.
    • by v1 (525388)
      a planetary computer's off-site hot spare would be ... on mars maybe?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:07AM (#22332332)

    Recently one of my friends, a computer wizard, paid me a visit. As we were talking I mentioned that I had recently installed Windows on my PC, I told him how happy I was with this operating system and showed him the Windows CD. To my astonishment and distress he threw it into my micro-wave oven and turned it on. I was upset because the CD had become precious to me, but he said: 'Do not worry, it is unharmed.' After a few minutes he took the CD out, gave it to me and said: 'Take a close look at it.' To my surprise the CD was quite cold and it seemed to have become thicker and heavier than before. At first I could not see anything, but on the inner edge of the central hole I saw an inscription, in lines finer than anything I have ever seen before. The inscription shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth:

    4F6E65204F5320746F2072756C65207468656D20616C6C2C204F6E65204F5320746F 2066696E64207468656D2C0D0A4F6E65204F5320746F206272696E67207468656D20 616C6C20616E6420696E20746865206461726B6E6573732062696E64207468656D

    'I cannot read the fiery letters,' I said.

    'No,' he said, 'but I can. The letters are Hex, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Microsoft, which I shall not utter here. But in common English this is what it says:'

    One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them,
    One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

    • Slashdot has truly become the center of all wit in the universe.

      We are unworthy.
  • without my knowledge? Wonderful!
  • And according to a Microsoft press release, they feel confident that there are key indicators signaling IBM's adoption of Vista for the new supercomputer.
  • Article Summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by dachshund (300733) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:15AM (#22332388)
    Basically this is a puff piece for IBM, talking up how their Blue Gene SMP systems can run Apache and Linux, so big clients should all run out and buy those rather than clustering inexpensive hardware. The "one computer, running the Internet as an application" thing is a meaningless hook to draw readers in (and get a little bit of attention on places like Slashdot).

    In real life there may be a case to be made for IBM's solution. But making that case has more to do with actually convincing large customers that IBM is substantially cheaper (and runs the software people need). Since that doesn't seem to be happening on a massive scale, I tend to doubt IBM's hype.

    • ACtually Blue Gene is not a big SMP. From the OS point of view, it's basically a cluster. So the article basically says that instead of using a cluster of 2U rackmount servers to host your internet app, you can use a cluster of Blue Gene nodes to host a large internet app. Trade one cluster for another. The Blue Gene alternative is attractive, in that each node uses very little power, and is very densely packaged. However, you do lose some flexibility. If, for some reason, your application required many hun
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:17AM (#22332404) Journal
    Can the entropy of the universe be reversed? will be the question we will be asking this computer.
  • Phython! (Score:5, Funny)

    by bunratty (545641) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:24AM (#22332450)
    I'm glad they're forward-looking enough to implement Phython, the best of PHP and Python in one language. Maybe next year they can implement Pherlthon?
  • Why do I feel a hyperspace bipass coming on?
  • The internet was invented as a military network to survive even the loss of one land. Dumb, if the only internet server is in exactly this land. Redundancy is absolutley wanted, to support the internet to stay alive.
  • by Stan Vassilev (939229) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:32AM (#22332500)
    I can't wait to be submit my credit card, using my e-banking or book airline tickets, to a bunch of random desktop machines hosting a distributed web application.

    I'm using edge cases? I'm being biased? Well, here's how IBM describes their project: "Such a computer would be capable of hosting not only individual web-scale workloads but the entire Internet."

    The *entire* Internet is vastly more complex and demanding on its *backend* than its *frontend* reveals. What can be hosted entirely on a distributed network of desktop machines precludes many trusted and secure online transactions we make use of in the Internet today. It's obvious from the get go, that this will be only usable for a limited subset of online applications (like, hosting Wikipedia for ex.?) , but I guess making overly broad statements caught the eye of some bloggers and journalists.
    • by inviolet (797804)

      The *entire* Internet is vastly more complex and demanding on its *backend* than its *frontend* reveals. What can be hosted entirely on a distributed network of desktop machines precludes many trusted and secure online transactions we make use of in the Internet today. It's obvious from the get go, that this will be only usable for a limited subset of online applications (like, hosting Wikipedia for ex.?) , but I guess making overly broad statements caught the eye of some bloggers and journalists.

      Not to wo

    • by fm6 (162816)

      I'm using edge cases?
      Why not use edge cases? They happen often enough to matter.
  • According to the article, the "giant computer" is really a crap-ton of racks, meaning 67.1 million "computers" with some networking to run perhaps as a single logical "system". Makes me want to ask: isn't the internet already millions of computers with networking? Why would we need this?
  • by bo-eric (263735) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:38AM (#22332540)
  • by The-Bus (138060) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:41AM (#22332562)
    It'll store all the internet?

    Wonderful. Then, just like my computer, I estimate the data it contains to be about 70% porn.
  • Recursion (Score:5, Funny)

    by webrunner (108849) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:41AM (#22332566) Homepage Journal
    What happens when they put it on the Internet, and then has to also serve itself?
  • TRON (Score:3, Funny)

    by drago (1334) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @09:47AM (#22332604)
    ...and can we call it MCP, please? :-)
    • "SYRINX"

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2112_(song) [wikipedia.org]

      We've taken care of everything
      The words you hear, the songs you sing
      The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes
      It's one for all and all for one
      We work together, common sons
      Never need to wonder how or why

      We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
      Our great computers fill the hallowed halls

      Although the logo of SYRINX is "red, not blue" ;-)

  • FTA: "... Linux microkernel ...".
  • I can see how the internet might consolidate to a single mega computer, perhaps as the backbone of all computing. However, people want choice, freedom, and mobility. Your cell phone is a powerful little computer, and it's only going to get more jacked up over time. Obviously the computing power in your iPhone doesn't fit this model.
  • ..and I must scream.
  • As long as I can have shell access, then sweeeeeet!?

  • "Kittyhawk" was the name for a different tech project [wikipedia.org] I can remember. Not a very auspicious choice on IBM's part...
  • and go directly for a Matrioshka Brain [aeiveos.com] built around the Sun. Helps against global warming too! :p
  • It sounds like a reasonable idea (if you ignore the silly market talk about hosting the internet). Take IBM's proven work in super computers and mainframes and design a scalable virtual machine system with Blue Gene racks. Sell CPU/Memory/Disk at a cost lower than racks of commodity hardware.

    Don't forget to tell the marketing people that end uses can then claim that their site is hosted on a super computer.

  • Instead of doing this just for the internet, why not just do this for everything, and return the desktop computer to the days of dumb terminals. The only difference is that each terminal acts as a mere fraction of the mainframe's total processing power. As far as consumer class users go, a system like this could host the OS with a local copy to fall back on when the network isn't available. It could also host mainstream apps like photoshop, designed specifically to run across a dynamic distributed computing
  • ll it run DNF?
  • Just hack 1 machine and all of the worlds data is in your hands! This is certainly an improvement for someone.
  • Oh the Irony (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:27AM (#22333862) Homepage
    Considering that the Internet's very definition is (in theory) a "network that is resistant to point attacks by virtue of being decentralized", sure, let's move back to the central server architecture. That is progress.

    Also, this is wonderful because it means we only need to protect a single computer from being monitored by the various US agencies. Oh wait...
  • I thought they were going to call it Skynet,

  • The article is saying the IBM system is capable of running the entire Internet as an application - that it has that much power. Not that this is what they are going to do or could possible do with the hardware. Just using it as a comparison metric.

    Perhaps they could give proof of concept by hosting the Internet Archive && resolve the issues we currently have where dynamic content isn't always caught & delivered right?
  • a global-scale shared computer capable of hosting the entire Internet as an application

    Ya, but try getting this thing through US Customs.

  • Bah, Google datacenters have the whole Internet on RAM !
  • A big complex of cheap computers that can tolerate appreciable levels of failure in individual nodes and a custom made high performance file system to keep it all running.

Federal grants are offered for... research into the recreation potential of interplanetary space travel for the culturally disadvantaged.

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