Lightning to strike Los Alamos

Advanced Simulation and Computing

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Scientists and researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory will receive a bolt of Lightning by the end of 2003.

Los Alamos officials announced Aug. 14 that the research facility is going to receive a new cluster supercomputer, named Lightning, to support the Energy Department's Advanced Simulation and Computing program.

The ASC program helps ensure the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile through supercomputing simulation programs. These computers run 3-D codes that simulate the physics of a nuclear detonation.

This type of research allows researchers to integrate past weapons test data and materials studies. Los Alamos collaborates in this area with the national laboratories at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia and with researchers at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Officials at Los Alamos plan to use Lightning mainly for smaller computing jobs involved with Energy's Stockpile Stewardship workload, such as weapons code development.

"A system of this magnitude will provide a valuable proving ground for large-scale, practical cluster computing, building on the exciting development of open-source tools by the larger high- performance computing community," said John Morrison, leader of Los Alamos' Computing Communications and Networking Division.

Linux Networx Inc. will design, integrate and deliver Lightning to Los Alamos. Prior to delivery, the company will build and integrate the tennis court-sized cluster at its own facilities and perform testing programs.

Delivery of Lightning should be completed in September. The company plans to have the entire system implemented and operational by the end of the year.

As one of the largest cluster supercomputers ever built, Lightning will consist of 2,816 Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Opteron processors and 1,408 dual-processor nodes, all of which will be interconnected by Myricom Inc.'s Myrinet high-speed network.

The project, with a total value of nearly $10 million, will be the first 64-bit Linux supercomputer in the ASC program.

Lightning is designed to have a theoretical peak speed of 11.26 trillion calculations per second. This speed will certainly rank Lightning among the top 10 supercomputers in the world and will give researchers at Los Alamos more computing strength, said Dean Hutchings, Linux Networx's chief operating officer.

"It's going to allow them significantly more computing capacity than what they've had available to them in the past," Hutchings said. "Clusters have allowed us to put more computing power in the hands of those that need it, and to do it at a much lower cost per cycle."

Aside from research areas involving nuclear weapons and other defense programs, the ASC supercomputers also perform calculations in more practical areas of science. These topics include simulating weather patterns and climate, gathering data on forest fires and finding cures for viruses.

Hutchings said Lightning's versatility will allow Los Alamos' researchers to make greater gains in areas that had been unattainable.

"This system in particular allows the use of these greater levels of computing capabilities to move these areas forward," Hutchings said. "We're using this as a steppingstone to building bigger machines, but these current machines perform real science and have everyday life applications."

In addition to Lightning, Linux Networx is developing a 256-node Evolocity cluster system for Los Alamos. Named Orange, this will be the largest InfiniBand cluster announced to date, according to Linux officials.

Orange will become part of the Laboratory's Institutional Computing project, which supports such research as the design of antibiotics and the characterization of the variability of the HIV-1 virus.

***

Cluster power

Los Alamos National Laboratory has chosen Linux Networx Inc. to build a new cluster supercomputer, called Lightning, to support the Energy Department's Advanced Simulation and Computing program. The program ensures the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile through computer simulation programs.

As one of the largest cluster supercomputers ever built, Lightning will consists of:

* 2,816 Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Opteron processors.

* 1,408 dual-processor nodes.

* Myricom Inc.'s Myrinet high-speed network.

* Peak speed of 11.26 trillion calculations per second.

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