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New Mexico Government To “Cannibalise” Encanto Supercomputer

Data centre, servers © Dario Lo Presti Shutterstock 2012
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Selling racks to pay the bills

The state of New Mexico is planning to take apart Encanto, once the third most powerful supercomputer in the world, and sell it in parts, after it failed to find a buyer for the complete Intel-based high performance computing (HPC) infrastructure.

Encanto was repossessed by the authorities last summer, when it emerged that the non-profit New Mexico Computing Applications Centre (NMCAC) couldn’t afford to look after it. It is thought that parts of the supercomputer might be sold to three different US universities.

Fire sale

Encanto was built in 2008, as the world was slipping into global recession, with the aim to “create clean and green well-paying jobs in New Mexico by driving the development of high-tech industries”.

The project was part-funded by the state, which spent $11 million to purchase and $9 million to maintain the supercomputer, capable of 172 trillion calculations per second. Encanto didn’t produce the desired result, and now New Mexico government is trying to get at least some of that money back.

“I think that the supercomputer is a symbol of excess,” Governor Susana Martinez said back in early 2011. “We have analyzed the situation. We have seen what the previous administration has invested in it. And we have looked to see what we have gotten back in revenue. It doesn’t match up.”

Encanto was the third most powerful supercomputer in the world when it was built, but fell to number 128 by July 2012. Its current price is thought to be below $1 million. However, NMCAC estimates that the machine helped bring in $60 million in funding for the state’s academic and research community.

In 2011, Encanto was used to run a complex program simulating ocean currents, in hopes of giving residents and response teams an idea of where the oil from BP’s broken underwater well was going.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the state couldn’t find an outright buyer for the 14,000 core titan, and is now looking to sell it by cabinet. “The universities have proposed to cannibalize it to put some of the assets back into service,” state IT secretary Darryl Ackley told the paper.

Ackley also said that the main problem with Encanto was not its cost, but the amount of money needed to run and maintain the infrastructure.

Currently, three US universities have expressed their interest in buying 16 out of 28 cabinets, each containing five hundred 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon cores.

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