IBM Server Sets World Record for Sorting Data

On July 21, in just 17 minutes, the time it takes most people to balance their checkbooks, researchers from IBM have set a world record by sorting one trillion bytes of data. In business terms, this would be the rough equivalent of listing in numerical order the tracking numbers for 10 billion overnight packages. Working at the rate of 15 numbers a minute, a person with pencil and paper would have to write non stop for 13 centuries just to make a list of 10 billion tracking numbers, let alone put them in order.

IBM’s world record was set using the parallel processing capabilities of an IBM RS/6000 SP, the same computer server behind the "Deep Blue" chess match with Garry Kasparov in 1997. That’s about one-third the time of the previous record of 50 minutes set November 10, 1998, by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories. The techniques developed to set the record are already being used to boost the performance of business intelligence software that extracts valuable information from large stores of data. Although not required by the benchmark ground rules, the IBM sort also left the sorted data in a very useful format for typical customer applications.