Labs make room for high performance
- By George I. Seffers
- Jul 31, 2000
NASA's Ames Research Center has accepted delivery of its first component
of the newly unveiled Silicon Graphics Inc. supercomputer and will have
an entire system up and running around February.
The research center will use the unit for three main research areas:
aeronautics, Earth sciences and life sciences. The supercomputers will be
used for a variety of tasks, including:
* Designing a replacement vehicle for the space shuttle.
* Performing advanced atmospheric analysis and simulation for improved
* Studying the origins of life in the universe.
Ames has found that the SGI model, when coupled with its own resource
management software and programming model, outperforms the competition.
"It appears from our estimate, codes will immediately run six times
faster," said Bill Feiereisen, Numerical Aerospace Simulation Systems Division
chief at Ames. "One thing we have seen is that when running a very well-known
code called Overflow, the highest performance we have seen was 8 to 10 gigaflops.
Converting the code to run on the SGI architecture with our resource management
software and programming model, we're seeing 60 gigaflops. Now 60 gigaflops
may not sound like much, and some people may claim to do better, but when
you really compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, this is about
the fastest anyone is running anywhere."
A gigaflop equals 1 billion floating point operations per second. Floating
point operations are used for calculating a large range of numbers quickly.
Although the research center has been tasked with helping NASA study
the origin of life in the universe, they also found the new supercomputer
attractive for more mundane reasons.
"Our floor space is pretty full. We would have had quite a hard time
finding space if it had been twice the size [of its predecessor], but it
has twice the number of processors per square foot. That's the only thing
that allowed us to push some machinery around and make room for it," Feiereisen
The Air Force High Performance Computing Office at Edwards Air Force
Base, Calif. also will receive a new system, which it expects in September.
Peter von Klargaard, director of the office, said the system will be used
for such things as:
* High fidelity simulations of electronic warfare battlefields.
* Simulated flight testing of the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter.
* Integrating lessons learned from live flight tests with simulated
flight tests, enabling pilots during simulation to see a realistic representation
of the battlespace.
For $3.6 million, the Air Force purchased the computer, visuals and
one terabyte of disk space.
"For the kind of thing we're doing, the SGI platform was right in line
with what needed to do. The bricks allowed us to customize the system. We
didn't have enough money for all the memory we needed, only 32G, but this
will allow us to relatatively inexpensively upgrade next fiscal year. It
looks like we need to double that, so we wanted something we can add to
as we go along," Klargaard said.