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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Flash Gordon

Gordon may seem like an unlikely name for a supercomputer, but there's a method to the madness at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), an organized research unit of UC San Diego.

That's because when this data-intensive supercomputer is deployed in late 2011, Gordon will become the first system to use Flash-based memory. Although common in devices such as mobile phones and laptop computers, Flash-based memory is unique for supercomputers, which generally use slower spinning-disk technology.

Gordon. Flash. Get it?

The result of a $20 million National Science Foundation grant, Gordon will be capable of handling massive databases while processing that data up to 100 times faster than conventional disk systems for some queries. This makes Gordon ideal for researchers who must churn through tremendous amounts of data just to find a sliver of valuable information, not unlike a web search.

"The amount of digital data generated just by instruments, such as DNA sequencers, cameras, telescopes and MRIs, is now doubling every 18 months," says SDSC Director Michael Norman. "Gordon will do for scientific data analysis what Google does for web search. We like to call Gordon the largest thumb drive in the world."

—Jan Zverina