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August 7, 2008

The Week in Review

by John E. West

Here’s a collection of highlights, selected totally subjectively, from this week’s HPC news stream as reported at insideHPC.com and HPCwire.

>>10 words and a link

CNN Motorsports talks about HPC in F1 racing;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/01/bmwsaubers-f1-supercomputer/

Platform Acquires Scali MPI;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/04/platform-acquires-scali-mpi/

Intel starting Larrabee talks;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/04/intel-talks-on-larrabee/

UK’s Met Office buys IBM POWER system;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/04/met-office-buys-ibm-super/

IBM puts $400M into selling cloud services;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/04/ibm-invests-400m-to-sell-cloud-resources-to-customers/

AT&T builds cloud services offering, picks lousy name;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/06/atts-oddly-named-cloud-offering/

Sun reports Q4, posts profit;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/04/sun-reports-q4-posts-profit/

Dell’s attempt to trademark “cloud computing” temporarily turned back;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/06/dell-pursuing-trademark-of-cloud-computing/

Results of head-to-head cooling systems comparison;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/06/chill-off-results/

40 HPC vendors team up on IB interoperability;
http://insidehpc.com/2008/08/06/40-hpc-vendors-team-up-on-ib-interoperability/

>>CRA analysis of the NITRD oversight hearings last week

Peter Harsha, writing at the excellent CRA Policy blog, gives us a detailed summary of what went on during last week’s House Science and Technology Committee hearing to review the federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program (NITRD):

…the 13 agency, $3.3 billion budget activity that represents the federal government’s investment in IT research and development. The hearing mainly focused on the recommendations issued last year by the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) in their review of the federal IT R&D ecosystem, Leadership Under Challenge: Information Technology R&D in a Competitive World (pdf ) (which we’ve also covered here). The hearing represents the first step in a process that will result in legislation next year that will attempt to once again amend the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 (most recently amended as part of the America COMPETES Act, passed in Aug 2007) to codify some of those recommendations.

There is far too much in the article to excerpt, although I was interested in the bit about PITAC. My good friend and graduate advisor Joe Thompson served on PITAC. Joe was always a big deal in my university days, but his primary research accomplishments were in an area that was only tangentially related to my studies, so I didn’t experience his influence there to the extent that my grid generation comrades did. But the appointment of a Mississippi gentleman to a role of such national visibility was hugely influential on my view of the world.

Finally, there was also brief discussion about Reed’s recommendation, as someone who has served on both PCAST and the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) before it was folded into PCAST, in support of reconstituting PITAC in order to really get adequate oversight of the NITRD program. Though there are some within the Administration who oppose the push to reconstitute PITAC, there was no objection from the committee members to the suggestion — in fact, Chairman Gordon pointed out that their reauthorization of HPCC in the America COMPETES Act actually called for the same thing. So perhaps we can look forward to the return of PITAC in the next Administration.

>>IBM Open Sources HPC Software Stack

IBM has released its first certified open source software stack for supercomputers based on the Linux operating system. The newly released suite is [was] designed to ease the pain of deploying large-scale computing environments. The release of what IBM calls its High Performance Computing Open Software Stack came at this week’s Linux World/Next Generation Data Center conference in San Francisco. The software stack features the Extreme Cluster Administration Toll [xCAT], which is currently used on LANL’s RoadRunner. xCAT has actually been available as an open source project listed on Sourceforge for quite some time.

“As more and more computing tasks migrate to supercomputer style clusters, there is a need for software that can effectively utilize and manage the large number of processors found in these systems,” said Dave Turek, vice president of Deep Computing for IBM in Monday’s announcement.

Initially, the software stack will only support platforms based on the Power6 processor. Support for P575 and x86-based platforms is on their roadmap.

>>Dell creating line of HPC systems

From the UK’s IT Week comes news that Dell is gearing up for an HPC product pilot this fall in Europe:

Dell will unveil a pre-configured range of HPC systems, with between four and 32 nodes, based on the combination of its server and storage hardware with open source software.

The systems will be based on Dell’s PowerEdge M-Series blades, with initial system roll outs running under Linux operating systems like Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Dell added it would introduce a Windows-based alternative by the end of the year.

The effort is not on Dell’s U.S. site (dell.com), but the company does have a press release on its European site. The effort is focused on departmental resources, and the pilot includes Insilicio, Technical University Dresden, Meteo France, and others. From the release:

“European research institutes and universities are battling to maintain vital research programmes whilst their budgets are being squeezed,” said James Quarles, director of enterprise solutions at Dell EMEA. “Equally, commercial businesses doing research and development of new software solutions have similar challenges. This pilot programme is designed to provide the computing power needed to accelerate the research process, whilst reducing costs and simplifying the deployment of super computers. This will enable European organisations to extend their HPC capabilities to the departmental level.”

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John West is part of the team that summarizes the headlines in HPC news every day at insideHPC.com. You can contact him at john@insidehpc.com.