NSF PR 01-91 - November 9, 2001
NSF-Funded Terascale Computing System Ranks as
World's Second Fastest
Pittsburgh-based computer hits peak of six trillion
operations per second
According to a new ranking of the world's fastest computers,
the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Terascale
Computing System (TCS) is the second most powerful.
No other system for university-based research can
match its peak of 6 trillion calculations per second,
known as "teraflops." The TCS reached more than four
teraflops when running Linpack, a standard software
test for comparing supercomputers.
The Top 500 Supercomputer Sites (http://www.top500.org/)
twice per year evaluates systems from across the world
using Linpack benchmark software. The TCS performed
computations on a complex set of linear equations
faster than any other computer that is dedicated to
The TCS is based at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
(PSC), which teamed with Compaq Corporation to develop
and implement the system with a $45-million award
from NSF. Through a process of competitive proposals,
U.S. scientists and engineers use the TCS to study
a broad range of topics that includes earthquakes,
storms, climate, astrophysics and molecular biology.
"We congratulate the PSC leadership on this remarkable
performance of the TCS so soon after installation,"
said Rich Hirsh, director of the NSF Division for
Advanced Computational Infrastructure and Research.
"Long-term, fundamental research across all science
and engineering disciplines benefit from the TCS,
which is a key part of NSF's strategy for a nationwide
'Cyber-Infrastructure' to accommodate the massive
amounts of data being generated by simulations and
land- or space-based instrumentation."
"Our analysis shows the TCS is the world's most powerful
computer for academics," said Jack Dongarra, professor
of computer science at the University of Tennessee
and co-founder of the Top 500 site. "The supercomputer
rankings have recently been dominated by systems used
for classified research, so the Pittsburgh system
represents an important new capability for university
scientists and engineers."
The TCS deploys 3,000 Compaq Alpha EV68 processors,
each of which operates at one gigahertz (1,000 megahertz).
The processors are configured in 750 groups of four,
with each such node having four gigabytes of memory
-- for a total of three terabytes of RAM. The TCS
uses a version of the UNIX operating system called
Tru64. Researchers have access to a large library
of software tools, many of which were developed over
the past decade with NSF funding.
"The TCS will have a huge impact in fields such as
biomedicine," said PSC scientific directors Michael
Levine and Ralph Roskies in a joint statement. "Such
advanced computers will enable real-time manipulation
of raw data from MRI scans, for example. And in geology,
high-end computer simulations are helping us understand
seismology and geomagnetism. We're also on the verge
of reliable stormscale weather forecasts, which would
not be possible without terascale computing."
In August 2001, NSF awarded a second terascale system
to a consortium led by the University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California
at San Diego, the California Institute of Technology
and Argonne National Laboratory. The first components
of that "TeraGrid" facility will come on-line in 2002,
with completion expected in 2003.
NSF is an independent federal agency that supports
fundamental research and education across all fields
of science and engineering, with an annual budget
of about $4.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states,
through grants to about 1,800 universities and institutions
nationwide. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive
requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding
The PSC was established in 1986 and is supported by
several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
and private industry.
For more about TCS, see http://www.psc.edu/publicinfo/terascale/bigiron.html
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