NASA Ames fires up supercomputer

NASA's Ames Research Center recently began using its most powerful parallel-processor supercomputer for tasks ranging from accurately predicting hurricane paths to calculating airflow around an aircraft in record time.

The 512-processor SGI Origin 3800 system is the product of a collaborative effort between Silicon Graphics Inc. and Ames to deliver enhanced computing capabilities based on SGI's modular technology, said Greg Slabodkin, public relations manager for SGI Federal, Silver Spring, Md.

SGI NUMAflex is a snap-together server system concept that enables customers to configure and reconfigure systems to meet the precise demands of their applications. The modular technology can scale up to 512 processors and a terabyte of memory, Slabodkin said.

The SGI machine at Ames can calculate airflow around an aircraft in a day and will lead to faster and better development of spacecraft, said John Ziebarth, deputy chief of Ames' Numerical Aerospace Simulation Systems Division, Moffett Field, Calif.

"We said to SGI, "If you build a 512-CPU system using single-system image, then we have a technique that will speed up processing about 10 times,'" Ziebarth said in a release. "With large NASA computer codes, we are getting 10 times improvement in performance."

Single-system image capability can make a computer more efficient and powerful by providing shared access to all system resources.

Working under a memorandum of agreement, NASA Ames and SGI made the prototype SGI Origin 3800 single-system image by combining two 256-processor machines. During the next few months, NASA and SGI will connect two 512-processor Origin 3800 supercomputers to form the world's first 1,024-processor single-system image, Slabodkin said.

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