Wolfram Alpha's Search Horsepower

The new Wolfram Alpha "knowledge engine" will run on infrastructure spread across five data centers, featuring two supercomputers, and be able to handle 175 million queries a day at launch, the company said.

The Wolfram Alpha "knowledge engine" is the latest new search tool to be compared to Google. As it prepares for launch, the team behind Wolfram is beefing up its infrastructure in hopes of avoiding comparisons to Cuil, another would-be Google killer that crashed upon launch and saw its buzz dissipate quickly.

Wolfram Alpha will run on infrastructure spread across five data centers, and be able to handle 175 million queries a day at launch, the company said in a blog post this week. Wolfram's computing horsepower includes "two supercomputers, just about 10,000 processor cores, hundreds of terabytes of disks, a heck of a lot of bandwidth, and what seems like enough air conditioning for the Sahara to host a ski resort," the company said.

The supercomputers in question are from R Systems, whose R Smarr supercomputer is currently ranked 44th on the Top 500 list and has more than 4,600 cores. Wolfram Alpha is also working with Dell, whose Data Center Solutions unit supplied "a data center full of quad-board, dual-processor, quad-core Harpertown servers."

"There is no way to know exactly how much traffic to expect, especially during the initial period immediately following our launch, but we’re working hard to put reasonable capacity in place," the Wolfram infrastructure team writes. "Will we have enough computing power to provide computable knowledge for everyone who visits? We hope so."

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