Champion powerlifter Phil Andrews, acting network director
at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, makes sure the
TeraGrid research network can crunch massive amounts
By Terry Sweeney
Network World, 07/21/03
Phil Andrews is no stranger to heavy lifting. To prove
it, he'll show you the latest rankings from Powerlifting
USA magazine, which ranks him No. 2 in the U.S.,
after hefting 837 pounds at a competition in Las Vegas.
Small wonder, then, that the National Science Foundation
(NSF) asked this guy
to oversee more than 500 terabytes of storage capacity
which will be the fastest, most computationally rich
research network in the world when it goes live early
next year. Andrews clearly knows how to deal in big
volume, whether it's in the gym or inside the San Diego
Supercomputer Center (SDSC)
where he works, on the campus of the University of California
at San Diego.
In addition to the supercomputing center in San Diego
and one in Pittsburgh, TeraGrid connects two sites in
Illinois - the National Center for Supercomputing Applications
in downstate Champaign and Argonne National Laboratory,
outside of Chicago in Argonne. It also connects to the
Center for Advanced Computing Research at the California
Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The TeraGrid backbone between Internet hubs in Chicago
and Los Angeles screams along at 40G bit/sec, with links
from those two main nodes to the five sites operating
at 30G bit/sec. Fiber capacity from Qwest and gigabit
routers from Juniper make up the major pieces of the
Massively large data
TeraGrid will deliver access to 20 teraflops (trillion
floating point operations per second) of computing power,
facilities capable of managing and storing nearly 1
petabyte (1 quadrillion bytes) of data, high-resolution
visualization environments and toolkits for grid computing.
Researchers will tap the TeraGrid to run applications
such as biomedicine, global climate and astrophysics
"This will move scientific research into areas it hasn't
gone before," Andrews explains, because scientific modeling
data can be massive.
Data is coming from a variety of sources such as microscopes,
telescopes and sensors, all generating terabytes of
data. The NSF's National Virtual Observatory already
keeps its digitized map of the night sky at SDSC.
SDSC's role is to "crunch and store," Andrews says,
meaning his organization will provide processing power
and data storage. Inside TeraGrid's storage network
at SDSC, three Brocade Communications SilkWorm 12000
switches will sit in front of the 500 terabytes of data.
Using, SDSC should be able to write 10G
byte/sec, while its tape drives will write at 1G byte/sec.
That's at least one exponent above most storage systems.
Before now, computing grids were overlaid on existing
networks. But because TeraGrid is being built specifically
for grid computing, developers can ensure all components
are appropriate and as powerful as budgets will allow,
Andrews says. He predicts that this sort of distributed
processing and storage across the WAN will be the model
for future networks, whether research or corporate.
"The future of grid computing is in providing these
kinds of data services. We just have to figure out the
best ways to ship so much data across the network,"
Andrews' background is well suited to the challenges
ahead. He brings impressive academic credentials to
bear with degrees from Cambridge, Purdue and Princeton.
He's experienced with artificial intelligence, 3-D software,
visualization, archiving, digital libraries and computational
medicine. He's worked at the Pittsburgh Supercomputer
Center and is now high-end computing program director
and acting networking director at SDSC, where he's been
since 1997, and the site's TeraGrid lead.
While Andrews admits to difficulty in balancing work
and personal life, he pursues some starkly contrasting
interests to storage, computing and networking. For
one, there's the competitive powerlifting, which he
began after doing the hammer throw in college. "You've
got to move the blood from the brain to the muscles,"
In training for a December competition, he'll kick
his weight up 15 pounds to 265, which explains the four
boxes of protein and energy bars above his desk. He
points out the window to an adjacent building - the UCSD
athletic center - where he lifts about three hours a
week when he's training.
And Andrews is a published poet, with odes to England's
faded glory ("Stand Not Upon Your Order") or the wrong
way to leave the house ("Today I Killed My Cat" ), for
What's true for stanzas is true for storage. "It's
not hard to put all these terabytes together," Andrews
says. "The challenge is to integrate it and make it
really useful for as many people as possible." That's
just the sort of heavyweight thinking TeraGrid needs.
Sweeney is a Los Angeles writer and editor who
has covered IT and networking for 20 years. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
National Science Foundation