Linux clusters speeding to top

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications announced plans Tuesday to install two IBM Corp. Linux clusters to create the world's fastest Linux supercomputers.

NCSA's clusters, which will be housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will have 2 teraflops of computing power. They will be used by researchers in many scientific fields, including those studying the nature of gravitational waves, computational biology and computational chemistry, said Dan Reed, director of NCSA.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications hosts the National Computational Science Alliance, a partnership working to create a prototype for an advanced computational infrastructure for the future. The alliance includes more than 50 academic, government and industry research partners from across the United States.

For now, the fastest Linux supercomputer, LosLobos, is at the Albuquerque High Performance Computing Center and is ranked 80th on the most recent Top 500 Supercomputer Sites list. By comparison, Reed said the new NCSA clusters should be close to the top five in the world.

Basing the new supercomputers on Linux was a no-brainer, Reed said, because the platform provides users with a familiar computing environment that covers single-user desktop workstations and small research clusters to the largest systems.

Reed would not disclose the total cost of the new machines but said it is a "multimillion-dollar deal by a substantial margin."

The two NCSA Linux clusters will include more than 600 IBM eServer xSeries running Linux and Myricom Inc.'s Myrinet cluster interconnect network.

The first cluster will be installed in February by IBM Global Services Inc. and will be based on the company's eServer x330 thin servers. Each will have a pair of 1 GHz Intel Corp. Pentium III processors and will run Red Hat Linux.

The second cluster, which should be up and running by June, will be one of the first to use Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor and will run Turbolinux, Reed said. The two clusters will expand the capabilities that NCSA has already demonstrated with Linux clusters and the Intel architectures.

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