Rice building Texas fastest academic supercomputer

first_imgAddThis ShareDACONTACT: Jade BoydPHONE:(713) 348-6778EMAIL: [email protected] BUILDING TEXAS’ FASTEST ACADEMICSUPERCOMPUTERRice Terascale Cluster Among the World’s Fastest UniversityComputersRice University hassecured grant funding from the National Science Foundation and Intel Corporationto build a supercomputer that will rank among the world’s fastest.When fully operationalnext year, the Rice Terascale Cluster (RTC) will be approximately three timesfaster than any university computer in Texas. The RTC will consist of at least70 interconnected servers containing the powerful new Intel” Itanium” 2processor.Housed at Rice’sComputer and Information Technology Institute (CITI), RTC will be the firstuniversity computer in Texas with a peak performance of 1 teraflop, or 1trillion floating-point operations per second (FLOPs), the standard measure ofsupercomputer performance. The total cost for RTC is undetermined. Fundingincludes $1.15 million from the NSF.Were it operationaltoday, RTC would rank among the 10 fastest academic supercomputers in thecountry and the top 25 university computers worldwide, according to www.top500.org, a semi-annual ranking of theworld’s top supercomputers that is compiled by researchers at the University ofTennessee and Germany’s University of Mannheim.The fastestsupercomputer in Texas, according to the list, is the University of Texas atAustin’s IBM Regatta-HPC Cluster, which has a peak performance of one-third of ateraflop.Scientists need fastercomputers to tackle increasingly complex mathematical problems that wouldrequire weeks or months to compute on existing machines. For example, toprecisely map the movements of every atom in a large molecule, researchers needto develop a complex mathematical model that contains thousands of variables.Such models are useful for drug designers and biomedical researchers, and awhole new scientific discipline known as bioinformatics has been created tosolve this and other complex biological computations. Increasingly, researchacross academic disciplines requires a similar level of complex computation, andit also requires a new generation of distributed software.“Rice faculty fromdisciplines as diverse as biochemistry, earth science, economics, neuroscience,computer science and political science will use RTC in their research,” saidMoshe Vardi, RTC principal investigator and CITI director. “It will also be avital tool for basic computational research aimed at better designing softwarethan can run on hundreds or even thousands of processorssimultaneously.”Rice’s proposal for NSFfunding for RTC faced stiff competition in a process that saw awards for justone-in-three applicants. Rice won based on independent evaluations by reviewerswho praised CITI’s expertise in high-performance computing, theinterdisciplinary nature of CITI research, and the caliber of the facultyinvolved.Complex research alreadyslated for RTC includes simulations of biomolecular interactions, the physics ofheavy ion collisions, simulations of Internet-based computer applicationsrunning on hundreds of computers, and simulations that aim to better understandand predict international conflicts.RTC is slated to beginoperation in early 2003. Tentative plans call for the cluster to include 70interconnected HP servers, each containing four 900-megahertz, Itanium 2processors. The cluster will have more than 500 gigabytes of RAM, and it will belinked to a 1 terabyte array of dedicated hard drives.According towww.top500.org, most of the fastest supercomputers, including the world’sfastest — the 35.9-teraflop NEC Earth Simulator in Japan — and the UnitedStates’ fastest — the 7.2-teraflop ASCI White-Pacific at Lawrence LivermoreNational Laboratory in California — are operated by private or government-runresearch laboratories. See for the Top 500 list of supercomputers.last_img read more