Sandia Extends Computational Plant Cluster

September 15, 2000

NEWS BRIEFS

San Diego, CALIF. — Compaq Computer Corporation delivers another 1300 computers to extend the “home-made” Sandia Cluster Cplant, which ranks 62 in the June 2000 Top500 list. It delivers 232 Linpack GFlop/s compared to a peak performance of 560 GFlop/s out of 580 processors.

Cplant is a true multipurpose supercomputer. Scientists run any program in exactly the same fashion as if they were using ASCI Red. Actually it is used as backup for the over-subscribed Red machine. With its new capabilities, it could deliver 50% to 66% application performance compared to the peak.

Sandia now has 2,600 Compaq computers as nodes in Cplant clusters of various configurations, with 512 at Sandia’s California site. The Antarctica subcluster, in New Mexico, is the largest and has 1,632 processors. It consists of three subsystems, 256 processors always in a classified partition, 256 always in a secure but unclassified partition, and 64 always in a open partition. The last are available to uncleared staff and partners from industry and academia. The other 1,056 processors will be switched among the three elements as demand for the types of calculations warrants.

Cplant Antarctica, the upwardly mobile computer at Sandia, is expected in the 20th fastest in the world. 1300 new ones and 300 old computers are used, the other 300 older nodes for other purposes. It is interesting that the National Lab invests 9.6 million US$ plus the cost of inhouse development for a supercomputer built from off-the-shelf components. The system with the additional units are expected to run early this fall.

It consists of Compaq DS10L workstations, which – because of their small size – 42 fit in a rack. At Sandia they only put 33 in a rack, as some space is needed for interconnects and networking for example. This is a big benefit compared to 8 workstations that fit in a rack in the old Cplant.

Because researchers at Sandia had helped to develop the system software that made ASCI Red into the fastest computer in the world, they believed they could succeed with an off-the-shelf version and made it work. They built a truly large Linux system. It is the largest “production” Linux cluster and produces technical results to aid ongoing science projects. The Compaq AlphaServer systems run a modified version of RedHat Linux plus the parallel systems software developed in the Cplant project. The combination of open source software along with their researchers’ own development, along with hardware, tools and compilers from Compaq made it into an affordable virtual supercomputer. The software will be released soon for the general public.

The new racks are designed to require as few external connections as possible, allowing the major functional units of the system to be integrated and tested in manufacturing at Compaq. This greatly simplified installation and maintenance of this large system.

The internal system area network is based on the newest Myrinet links and switches, delivered in July and developed by Myricom Corp. Visit http://www.cs.sandia.gov/cplant for more information.

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