Linux helps in search for oil

Linux supercomputer is ten times more 'super' than the rest

A Linux-based supercomputer will be used by energy company Conoco to help search for oil beneath the earth's surface at a fraction of conventional computing costs.

The supercomputer uses a network of single and dual processor Linux machines to carry out its calculations. Conoco has spent more than $5m (£3.4m) on this supercomputer cluster, having customised the software in order to maximise performance. According to the company, the supercomputer offers approximately 0.5 teraflops (trillions of floating point operations per second) of processing power.

Conoco needs this massive computing power because its oil exploration work depends on processing vast amounts of seismic data. In fact, the energy company argues that its new Linux supercomputer offers unparalleled performance in this area of research and describes its new supercomputer as "among the most powerful supercomputers worldwide".

Crucially, the supercomputer is also highly cost efficient. According to Conoco it is around ten times cheaper to run than traditional supercomputers in this field. This is partly because the Linux operating system is developed under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) which means that it can be implemented and even modified free of charge as long as modifications appear under the same licence agreement.

"The real advantage for Conoco of this Intel cluster is that it will allow us to analyse seismic data faster and cheaper," says Dr Alan R Huffman, manager of Conoco's Seismic Imaging Technology Centre. "This new supercomputer will not only give Conoco more computer power to solve complex imaging problems, but it will also enable us to analyse our data in ways that were simply not possible or cost-effective before."

The supercomputer is based at Conoco's seismic computing facility in Oklahoma but is accessible from company offices around the world and even at offshore facilities. Conoco is one of the world's largest energy companies and has subdivisions in 40 different countries.

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