Certainly the market for supercomputers is fairly small, so the potential impact on IBM's results from this achievement will probably be relatively insignificant. After all, how often do you need to perform 36.01 trillion calculations per second, or 36.01 trillion teraflops? Actually, more frequently than one might think: The new machine, named BlueGene/L, has applications in the petroleum and biotech industries, according to TheNew York Times. And focusing on the supercomputing field has been a fairly good business model for Cray
For IBM, though, BlueGene/L is important because it shows that the company remains on the cutting edge. Despite some slips and intermittent doubts from pundits, the granddaddy of the tech world continues to be a major force in innovation.
Looking at the latest trends in technology, Big Blue is everywhere. For example, Fool contributors Carl Wherrett and John Yelovich point out that IBM holds 700 nanotechnology patents. Its work in the field includes development of the world's first organic computer, and on the nearer-term horizon, creating a nanomechanical data storage device. Further, the computing outfit announced earlier this week that it plans to invest $250 million in passive radio frequency identification, or RFID, the hottest thing in supply chain management.
It's true that investing in R&D in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing. But it's hard to argue with tangible results. With BlueGene/L, IBM has demonstrated once again that it not only invests in the latest technology, but that its research spending finds its way into practical applications that pay dividends for shareholders.
Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.