The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded IBM contracts valued at $325 million to develop and deliver advanced “data centric” supercomputing systems at Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories IBM announced today. The twist: It sounds like the systems won't be online until about 2017 or 2018.

Still, the contracts arrive at a critical time for IBM and its hardware business, which faces intense competition from commodity "white label" servers and cloud solutions. The government will use the new "data centric" systems for science, engineering and national security.

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