Massive Beowulf cluster for Shell

Shell International E&P has commissioned a clustered ‘Beowulf’ supercomputer from IBM. The machine is built from 1024 Linux-based IBM servers and has a theoretical 2 teraflop capacity.

IBM and Shell International Exploration & Production are collaborating on what is claimed as the world’s largest ‘Beowulf’, a clustered supercomputer built from Intel-based PCs running Linux.

2 teraflops

The new machine will comprise 1024 IBM x330s packaged in 32 racks, all running Linux and capable of performing two thousand billion floating point operations per second (2 teraflops). The largest commercial Linux cluster IBM has ever built is due for delivery in January. Shell will use the supercomputer to run Seismic and other E&P applications.


IBM VP of technology and strategy, Irving Berger said “The fact that Shell has decided to run these applications on an IBM Linux supercomputer demonstrates that Linux is coming of age. It shows that Linux can scale to meet the high-workload demands of even the most progressive supercomputing tasks.”


Prior use of Beowulf clusters in seismic processing was reported by Advanced Data Solutions and by Princeton University. (see PDM Vol 4 N° 10.) The Beowulf project was initiated by NASA in 1994. Since then the technology has gained in popularity and a Beowulf cluster was used to simulate both the ship as well as the ocean and wave action in the movie Titanic.


Jack Burr, Shell’s Principal Research Physicist and designer of the Beowulf cluster told PDM “Shell International E&P’s R&D is considered to give the company a significant competitive edge. We have a superb library of processing algorithms, but up till now we have been lacking the means to deploy them effectively. The new machine will allow us to do this and also will let us test out some very interesting new algorithms that we are developing.” See PDM’s interview with Burr inside this issue.

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