Sun HPC Consortium Afternoon I

My second and final installment from Day I of Sun HPC Consortium meeting in Seattle. We had two customer presentations, which I summarize below.

L. Eric Greenwade, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), USA

Eric Greenwade is the HPC Architect at the Idaho National Laboratory and at the newly formed Center for Modeling and Simulation (CAMS). His talk was titled Ozone: Sun v20z Cluster Retrospective.

INL is charged by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to lead the revitalization of nuclear energy in the US. It was quite interesting to hear some of the nuclear engineering applications with which INL is involved. They are working with NASA on space transportation architectures (both robotic and crewed vehicles) and are also working on homeland security applications: photonuclear detection of nuclear materials, including cargo container detection of SNM (special nuclear materials). As Eric says, you actually don’t WANT to detect SNMs in cargo containers. 🙂

With respect to HPC computing infrastructure, Eric described a heterogeneous site with a majority of Sun equipment (other systems include some old Cray vector machines and some generic Linux clusters.) INL use Sun Enterprise servers and storage to form the backbone and have a 494 processor v20z (called Ozone) with a dual GigE network dedicated to message-passing traffic.

According to Eric, their v20z cluster has allowed INL to leapfrog their original goals by two years. TThey’ve achieved 20-80x performance increases with the system and it is the centerpiece of the INL HPC environment. The system is the first step in INL’s 10-year strategic HPC plan which takes them to over 1 PetaFLOP within the decade.

David De Roure, University of Southampton, UK

Our second customer speaker in the afternoon was David De Roure, who is the head of Grid and Pervasive Computing at the University of Southampton. His talk was titled “WUN Grid — The Worldwide University Network Grid.

The Worldwide University Network is an international alliance of 16 research-led institutions in the UK, US, and Scandinavia. The WUN came first, followed by the WUN Grid, which is a deployment of grid technology across these institutions to form a virtual organization. One of David’s main points was that the pre-existing relationships and trust that existed betweenWUN member organizations was a key factor in the success of establishing a shared grid infrastructure between the members. With these relationships they were able to easily overcome the typical organizational barriers that often hobble international grid efforts.

Interestingly, the WUN Grid decided to focus their initial efforts in a non-traditional area for grid computing. Their priorities are arts and humanities and social sciences. These areas were chosen in part because it was felt that even modest efforts in these areas could yield large results. In terms of infrastructure priorities, these were similarly non-traditional: First data grids, then collaborative grids, and then finally computational grids.

David mentioned several efforts, one of which I’ll sketch here. They’ve established an arts and humanities effort that has come to be known unofficially as the Culture Grid. It is linked to HASTAC in the US, which is a strategic alliance of scientists, humanists, artists, social theorists, legal specialists and information technology specialists. In the UK, it is linked with the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Humanties Data Service. In addition, they have linked to the Global Grid Forum’s Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Research Group.

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