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Electronic Design

Off-The-Shelf Composite Supercomputer Speeds Its Way Into The Top 20

The computational cluster at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., is set to be the 20th fastest supercomputer in the world. Composed of 1300 off-the-shelf computers, the Computational Plant (Cplant) Antarctica doubles the number of its original 600-computer configuration (see the figure). The earlier cluster ranked 44th in speed (see "Composite Computer Takes 44th-Fastest Slot," Electronic Design, Jan. 10, p. 31).

The Cplant is the largest "production" Linux cluster, which means that it produces technical results to aid ongoing science projects. Using technology developed at Sandia, it differs from the popular Beowulf Linux cluster project. Cplant Antarctica is a giant multiprocessing system, while Beowulf distributes processing across a network of typically unused or underutilized processors. "Cplant is a true, multipurpose supercomputer," says Bill Camp, director of Sandia's Computations, Computers, and Math Center.

Cplant Antarctica uses the Myrinet series of links and switches developed by Myricom Corp. of Arcadia, Calif. The switches let users manage the cluster as a single resource for large, parallel jobs. Engineers can split the system into multiple yet isolated logical clusters, allowing classified and unclassified processing to occur securely in different logical clusters.

Each node in the system is powered by a Compaq Alpha DS10L processor. Up to 42 processors can fit into a standard rack. Yet the Sandia implementation only uses 33 processors to permit space for the interconnect switches. Additionally, Cplant Antarctica runs a modified version of Red Hat Linux. The parallel system's software developed in the Cplant project will be released as open software in the near future.

The Cplant will complement Sandia's ASCI Red, an Intel-built supercomputer. ASCI Red was the fastest machine in the world for several years. But in early July, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., installed ASCI White, an IBM-built supercomputer. Cplant Antarctica will offload some processing chores from ASCI Red.

For more details, visit Sandia's web site at

TAGS: Intel
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