SCIENCE & ENGINEERING NEWS
San Diego, CA — SGI announced that the UK Astrophysical Fluids Facility (UKAFF), based at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, will use its newly launched Origin 3000 server for calculations tackling some of the universe’s most complex mysteries. The high processing speeds and scalability of the new SGI system will dramatically advance research into black holes and colliding stars.
The Origin 3000 is the only server currently scaling to the processing levels required by astronomers, while retaining a shared memory architecture, making computational methods far more efficient. The Origin 3000 system to be used by UKAFF contains 128 MIPS R12000 processors in a single shared memory configuration based on NUMAflex technology. The £5m project is part-funded by the DTI, the Joint Research Enterprise Initiative (JREI) with matching funding provided by SGI.
The system will be housed at Leicester but available to astronomers across the UK making calculations for world-leading research projects in theoretical astrophysics. The speed of this machine will allow them to calculate much more complex problems than has been possible before.
Andrew King, professor of astrophysics at the University of Leicester, commented, “The availability of this high-speed machine for general use by astronomers means that the UK will retain its world-leading position in theoretical astrophysics. This has implications elsewhere: many calculations made in astrophysical research are similar to those performed in industry, for example the effect of a bird strike on an aeroplane engine. UKAFF will foster the growth of expertise in this area in the UK.”
Andrew Grant, higher education business manager for SGI in the UK, commented, “SGI is honoured to have been chosen by the UKAFF consortium for this exciting project and extremely pleased that the first Origin 3000 system installed in the UK will be used to solve challenging astrophysical fluid problems. The unique scalability feature of the Origin 3000, coupled with SGI’s advanced visualisation technologies, allows for unprecedented amounts of data to be analysed. This will ultimately result in new insights in many areas of theoretical astrophysics.”
Professor King is currently working on a number of projects that will benefit from his use of the SGI system. For example, he is investigating stellar collisions, when a black hole swallows a neutron star, which can result in a gamma ray burst. In this event, the amount of energy produced is equivalent to doubling the light output in the entire universe for a brief period. Calculations made on the Origin 3000, to go live in October 2000, will speed progress in this and other areas.
Launched on July 25 2000, the SGI Origin 3000 series servers utilise the unique SGI NUMAflex modular technology, a “brick”-style system for constructing small to very large systems from a common set of building blocks.
The SGI NUMAflex modular system allows users to build the optimum configuration one component at a time and adopt new technologies that map to their specific business or research needs. In contrast, traditional high-performance computers may need to be replaced as often as once a year to keep up with competitive demands and technological changes – a costly and cumbersome process.
SGI provides a range of high-performance computing and advanced graphics solutions that enable customers to understand and conquer their toughest computing problems. Headquartered in Mountain View, California, with European headquarters based in Theale, Reading, the company is located on the Web at http://www.sgi.com .