HPC-ETC: THE PAST MONTH IN HIGH PERF. COMPUTING

July 28, 2000

by Steven Witucki, assistant editor

SENATE EASES SUPERCOMPUTER EXPORT CONTROLS

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday, July 12 to ease export controls on high-performance computers despite concerns U.S. technology could be used against America by its enemies. On a vote of 86-11, the Senate adopted an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would decrease to 60 days the 180 days Congress has to review changes in administration export rules on such computers. Sen. Robert Bennett said the shorter time is needed to help American high-tech companies keep their competitive advantage in the global market. Sen. Fred Thompson said he was concerned about the effect an easing could have on national security. “The Chinese … are using our technology,” he said. “They are specifically using our high-performance computers to enhance their own nuclear capabilities. Potentially, they will be used against our own country.” Supporters of the easing say current controls are ineffective because they are much stricter than those of foreign competitors. Under a 1998 law, American exporters of high-performance computers (those running at 2,000 million theoretical operations per second) have been subjected to a six-month review period to protect American technological secrets. While well-intentioned, that provision no longer makes sense because some products can become obsolete during the six months, supporters of the measure contended.

IBM SUPERCOMPUTER CHOSEN FOR EARTH SIMULATOR

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), a member of the German G.W. Leibniz Society, has selected a 200 Processor IBM RS/6000 SP system as its next generation supercomputer. This supercomputer will significantly enhance the capabilities of PIK researchers to assess mankind’s impact on climate and other major components of the ecosphere. The system will be 15 times more powerful than the preceding IBM machine operating at PIK and will rank among the 100 most powerful supercomputers in the world. The computer will be installed in October.

SGI WINS CONTRACT WITH NOTUR FOR HPC INSTALLATION

In July, a contract between Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Silicon Graphics AS (SGI) was signed. HPC 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. 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.

“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.”

“NUG30” PROBLEM SOLVED

Supercomputers played a vital role in solving an applied mathematics problem that had gone unsolved for 32 years. The problem, known as “nug30,” was proposed in 1968 as a test of computer capabilities, but remained unsolved because of its great complexity. At its peak, the problem enlisted the use of 1,009 computers working simultaneously at the University of Wisconsin, Argonne National Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Italian Istituto Nazional di Fisica Nucleare, Albuquerque High Performance Computing Center, Northwestern University and Columbia University. The solution required almost one week of continuous computing. If the problem could have been run on a single computer workstation, it would have taken approximately seven years to complete. “This has been a great collaboration,” said Nathan Brixius, who helped solve the problem along with Kurt Anstreicher and Henry Tippie from the University of Iowa (Their collaborators were Jean-Pierre Goux and Jeff Linderoth of Argonne National Lab). “Working as part of a team has really showed me how a lot of pieces can come together to solve an extremely difficult problem.” For more information about the nug30 problem and its solution see the web pages at http://www.mcs.anl.gov/metaneos/nug30/ .

COMPUTERS SIMULATE NUCLEAR BLAST IN 3-D

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists say computers for the first time have simulated the beginning of a hydrogen bomb blast in full-scale 3-D. The simulations took 42 days to run using super-fast computers at Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories. The simulations, completed April 30 and announced this month, are a major step toward replacing underground nuclear test blasts. A Lawrence Livermore simulation showed the detonation of the plutonium spark plug that starts an H-bomb bomb blast. The Los Alamos simulation showed the second step, when a burst of radiation from the plutonium ignites the fuel that gives a hydrogen bomb its big blast.

IBM INTRODUCES COMMERCIAL VERSION OF SUPERCOMPUTER

IBM introduced a commercial version of ASCI White – one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Taking advantage of the recent shift in supercomputer usage from scientific research to business applications, the RS/6000 SP offers commercial capability meant to appeal to both dot com startups as well as large corporate data centers. “e-businesses can now purchase the same leading-edge IBM technology that powers ASCI White, the world’s fastest supercomputer,” said Rod Adkins, general manager, IBM Web Servers. More than 70 percent of all IBM supercomputers sold are used for commercial applications.

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