SCIENCE & ENGINEERING NEWS
San Diego, CA — Norway is back on the scene for HPC. Last Thursday, a contract worth 50 mill. Norwegian kroner (some 6.1 mill ECU) between Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Silicon Graphics AS (SGI) was signed. Equipment will be installed over a two-year period. The final machine, exceeding 1 Tflop/s performance, is expected to be the most powerful in Scandinavia, and will represent an increase of over 20 times the compute power of the largest current installation in Norway.
As the result of a tendering process this spring, SGI was chosen to deliver the next generation HPC equipment for installation at NTNU. NTNU leads the HPC project NOTUR for the period 2000-2003. NOTUR is funded by The Norwegian Research Council (ca. 50%), and the partners in a consortium. The consortium consists of the other three universities in Norway, the state-owned oil company Statoil, the independent research organisation SINTEF, The Norwegian Meteorological Institute (DNMI), ViewTech ASA, which is a small company specialising in visualisation software, and the Norwegian telecom company Telenor.
The contract was signed in Trondheim, Norway on July 13. This contract concerns SGI’s installation at NTNU, which is the largest installation in the project. Other installations will be made at the other universities following new tendering processes.
The first delivery for the NOTUR project will take place this summer, when two Origin 2000 systems will be installed. The total performance available at that point in time will approach 100 Gflop/s. Two upgrades, exploiting next generation technology from SGI, will take place in 2001, increasing the available compute power to 220 Gflop/s.
A final upgrade, scheduled for late 2002, will boost the performance of the NOTUR system to over 1 Tflop/s (1 trillion operations per second), with more than 512 Gbytes of memory and over 6 Tbytes of disk.
The installation at NTNU will be used to compute weather forecasts, simulate petroleum reservoirs, solve problems in physics, chemistry and medicine, find the limits of constructions, and several other purposes. Interesting possibilities open up when HPC is combined with large bandwidth networks, so that access to large compute resources and data banks become more available. This may trigger new user groups to make use of HPC.
“This will put us back on the TOP500 list,” said Project Manager, Professor Bj¯rn Hafskjold at NTNU. “The aim is to have an interesting resource in a European context. Combined with the competence represented by the consortium partners, we expect that the new installations will have great impact on Norwegian industry and give us an infrastructure for scientific advancement at the international scene. The choice of SGI gives us immediate increase in compute power as well as an option for new, interesting technology in 2002.”
“We are excited by NOTUR’s decision to partner with SGI to deliver the most powerful computer in Scandinavia to the Norwegian researchers and scientists,” said Fabio Gallo, Director of High Performance Computing at SGI Europe. “We expect many new challenging scientific projects to be stimulated by the availability of this new system, which will rank among the most powerful in Europe.”
The choice of SGI, known for visualisation and HPC, fits nicely with the users’ current experience. Powerful SGI-machines exist at the University of Bergen and at SINTEF Petroleum Research. The transition from the existing Cray T3E installed at NTNU is relatively simple.
Co-operation between the universities, DNMI, Statoil, SINTEF, and other users enables the capacity of the installation to be almost 100% available with round-the-clock operations and low operational costs. Users all over Norway may benefit from the national infrastructure by using the resources via Internet. It is also of interest that a small company like ViewTech, which stems from the research community in Trondheim, is in the consortium. Visualisation is an important new area.
“SGI is proud to be chosen as vendor for this prestigious contract, which is noticeable far beyond Norway,” said CEO Geir Aasen in SGI Norway. “We feel comfortable in environments with extreme requirements for performance in compute power and visualisation,” Aasen said. SGI will, together with the strong competence in the consortium, work to develop and test new solutions in visualisation.
“Security and operational stability are especially important to us,” says Principal Engineer Trond Suul in Statoil. “The compute power that this installation provides will enable us to solve problems that so far have been inaccessible for us. Through the co-operation with NTNU and other industrial users, we may contribute to a more significant installation than each one of us could have managed separately. This is good both for us and for the other users.”