IBM is to supply high-performance Unix-based servers and software for a grid-computing project studying areas such as hurricane storm surges and human genome sequences.

The three-year agreement is with the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA), a US consortium of organisations and universities linked into a grid computing system, SURAgrid, whose distributed computing power is used for a variety of scientific projects from nuclear physics to coastal research.

SURAgrid will use IBM's System p575 servers, each of which use 16 Power5+ microprocessors running at 1.9 GHz and 32 GB of memory. The servers run AIX, IBM's version of Unix. The additional equipment means SURAgrid will be able to double its capacity and perform 10 trillion calculations per second, which would take one person eight million years to do with a calculator, IBM said.

The grid is linked together by middleware from the Globus Alliance, an open-source grid computing organisation.

Three schools - Louisiana State University, Georgia State University and Texas A&M University - will be among the first to take on the equipment.

SURAgrid will be used to study the effects rising water levels caused by storms, which cause flooding in low-lying coastal areas. The project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the USOffice of Naval Research.

IBM declined to specify the value of the deal. SURAgrid was not immediately available for comment.