Labs seek vendor input on ASCI project

Three national laboratories this month asked computer manufacturers and integrators to offer advice on how to structure a multimillion-dollar project that will boost supercomputing speeds by 1 000 times what is now available.

The Lawrence Livermore Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories jointly issued a so-called request for expression of interest (REI) for the Pathforward Project. The project is a component of the Energy Department's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) which will fund the development of the next five generations of high-performance computers.

The new computers which perform trillions of calculations in seconds will boost supercomputing speeds to levels that will dwarf those available today. The faster machines will be able to create huge models of complex events and solve enormous mathematical problems beyond the capabilities of today's supercomputers. These new computers will simulate underground nuclear tests and monitor the nation's aging nuclear stockpile among other uses.

The REI calls for vendors to form development and engineering alliances to ensure that the essential hardware and software - called path technologies - are available to scale computing power to high-end levels.

With scalable architecture supercomputers can be configured to have the appropriate computational power by using a larger or smaller number of processors memory interconnection bandwidth input/output bandwidth and mass storage.

The Pathforward Project would include high-performance interconnections which are needed to transfer data among multiple processors at extremely high speeds as well as distributed parallel operating system software parallel programming environment and ultra high-scale high-performance storage products.

The Pathforward Project likely will include multiple contract awards and will be funded at $10 million per year for two to four years. The REI encourages high-end integrators and independent manufacturers to respond. Proposals are due this week.

Almost 20 companies attended a January meeting to discuss the Pathforward Proj-ect. Among the companies attending were supercomputing heavy-hitters IBM Corp. Digital Equipment Corp. Silicon Graphics/Cray Research Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Also attending were boutique concerns such as Dolphin Interconnect Solutions The Portland Group and Storage Technologies Corp.

Vendors said Pathforward officials have been open to private-sector participation.

"They don't know how everything will come together " said Tom Mortensen account manager with Silicon Graphics/Cray. "It all depends on industry.

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