TACC Donates First-of-Its-Kind Magnum Switch to Computer History Museum

July 12, 2018

July 12, 2018 — Supercomputers are the sports cars of the technology world: fast, glamorous and expensive.

Credit: Dag Spicer, Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA

This might be why Dag Spicer, senior curator at the Computer History Museum, finds them fascinating. Recently, Spicer and his team in Mountain View, CA, unanimously accepted a piece of TACC’s history into their permanent historical collection — sealing its place as a milestone in computing.

“We’re always searching around the world for new, interesting, and important computing objects,” Spicer said in a recent interview, “and TACC’s Sun Microsystems 2007 Magnum switch was a critical part of high-performance computing (HPC) at that time in history. The TACC switch was the largest of its class and is an example of Infiniband technology, of which we had few examples.”

With more than 100,000 objects in its collection, the Computer History Museum is home to the largest collection of computers and related materials in the world.

The Sun Microsystems Magnum Infiniband switch was part of TACC’s Ranger supercomputer system, in effect connecting the tens of thousands of Ranger’s processors together into a blazingly fast high-speed interconnected network. Specifically, Ranger was a network of 62,976 cores packed into 15,744 quad-core microprocessors.

In 2008, the Ranger system was the first supercomputer in open science to approach the petascale performance mark at 579.4 teraflops — that’s one thousand million million floating-point operations per second. At the time, the $59 million award to build the system was the largest single National Science Foundation (NSF) grant ever received by The University of Texas at Austin.

Ranger debuted as the fifth most powerful computer in the world on the June 2008 Top 500 list, and it was hailed by the NSF as the most powerful supercomputing system in the world for open science research — up to 50,000 times more powerful than a PC at the time.

Everything about Ranger was big — the idea, the award, the system, the desire to do bigger and better science.

The technology that goes into a supercomputer is cutting-edge and impressive, but more importantly, supercomputers help solve the grand challenge problems facing society today and in the future ― problems such as global climate change, water resource management, new energy sources, natural disasters, new materials and manufacturing processes, tissue and organ engineering, patient-specific medical therapies, and drug design.

These issues cannot be addressed or overcome without computing modeling and simulation on HPC systems like Ranger and its follow-on systems.

Founded in 1979 in Boston, but later moved to Mountain View in 1996, the Computer History Museum uses their collections to teach people aged five to 95 about computing and the impact it has on nearly aspect of their daily lives. “We talk about the social consequences of computers and we explain the objects in the context of their own time,” Spicer says.

For example, the museum has the world’s first disk drive made by IBM in 1956. It held only five million 6-bit characters (about 3.75 megabytes), which is equivalent to a single,short song on an iPod. However, at the time, IBM’s goal was to use this disk drive to replace punched cards. Until the mid-1970s, most computer access was via punched cards. “Context is everything,” Spicer says.

“Behind nearly every artifact, exhibit, and pioneering effort is a story that the museum is dedicated to understand and tell,” says Gordon Bell, a pioneer in HPC and parallel computing and co-founder of the museum. “It’s the world’s only institution dedicated to the industry-wide preservation of information processing devices and documentation.”

The other co-founder is Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation. The company was a major American company in the computer industry from the 1950s to the 1990s and specialized in making minicomputers.

In some ways, the museum founders and curators like to think 500 years into the future. “The last 70 years we’ve progressed from mechanical calculators to computers so fast they almost transcend human understanding,” Spicer says. “And yet for the types of problems they are being asked to solve, they are never fast enough. What can we expect in just the next 20 years, let alone the next century? CHM exists to keep an object-based record of this stunning progress.”

Exascale computing, a billion billion calculations per second, is not a final goal in and of itself. Rather it is another stage in what has been a steady rocket blast in computing power since the 1970s. Such capacity represents a thousandfold increase over Ranger, the first ‘Path to Petascale’ computer that came into operation in 2008. Experts say that the open science community may hit the Exascale era by 2021.

“I’m hoping we’ll do a new exhibit here when that time comes,” Spicer concludes, “as it will mark a milestone unimaginable to the original inventors of the computer and the culmination of decades of careful, incremental change. In science, computing power equals discovery. Exascale computing will give us new, thrilling new ways of seeing the world and of solving the critical problems that humanity is facing right now.”


Source: Faith Singer-Villalobos, TACC

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than ever, the network plays a crucial role. While fast, perform Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of personalized treatments based on an individual’s genetic makeup Read more…

By Warren Froelich

WCRP’s New Strategic Plan for Climate Research Highlights the Importance of HPC

July 19, 2018

As climate modeling increasingly leverages exascale computing and researchers warn of an impending computing gap in climate research, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) is developing its new Strategic Plan – and high-performance computing is slated to play a critical role. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Are Your Software Licenses Impeding Your Productivity?

In my previous article, Improving chip yield rates with cognitive manufacturing, I highlighted the costs associated with semiconductor manufacturing, and how cognitive methods can yield benefits in both design and manufacture.  Read more…

U.S. Exascale Computing Project Releases Software Technology Progress Report

July 19, 2018

As is often noted the race to exascale computing isn’t just about hardware. This week the U.S. Exascale Computing Project (ECP) released its latest Software Technology (ST) Capability Assessment Report detailing progress so far. Read more…

By John Russell

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of perso Read more…

By Warren Froelich

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

AI Thought Leaders on Capitol Hill

July 14, 2018

On Thursday, July 12, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology heard from four academic and industry leaders – representatives from Berkeley Lab, Argonne Lab, GE Global Research and Carnegie Mellon University – on the opportunities springing from the intersection of machine learning and advanced-scale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Serves as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the Information Age

July 12, 2018

In an age defined and transformed by its data, several large-scale scientific instruments around the globe might be viewed as a ‘mother lode’ of precious data. With names seemingly created for a ‘techno-speak’ glossary, these interferometers, cyclotrons, sequencers, solenoids, satellite altimeters, and cryo-electron microscopes are churning out data in previously unthinkable and seemingly incomprehensible quantities -- billions, trillions and quadrillions of bits and bytes of electro-magnetic code. Read more…

By Warren Froelich

Tsinghua Powers Through ISC18 Field

July 10, 2018

Tsinghua University topped all other competitors at the ISC18 Student Cluster Competition with an overall score of 88.43 out of 100. This gives Tsinghua their s Read more…

By Dan Olds

HPE, EPFL Launch Blue Brain 5 Supercomputer

July 10, 2018

HPE and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausannne (EPFL) Blue Brain Project yesterday introduced Blue Brain 5, a new supercomputer built by HPE, which displ Read more…

By John Russell

Pumping New Life into HPC Clusters, the Case for Liquid Cooling

July 10, 2018

High Performance Computing (HPC) faces some daunting challenges in the coming years as traditional, industry-standard systems push the boundaries of data center Read more…

By Scott Tease

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This