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Sun Microsystems Donates High Performance Computing Equipment to UCSD for the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure

Published 04/17/1997

For More Information:
SDSC: Ann Redelfs

UCSD: Warren R. Froelich

Sun Microsystems Computer Company: David Bailey

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- April 17, 1997 -- A donation by Sun Microsystems, Inc. of high performance computer hardware and software to UCSD for the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI) has strengthened the strategic relationship among these organizations in support of their mutual goal to enhance the nation's computational infrastructure for scientists and engineers. NPACI, a partnership of 37 leading academic and research organizations which recently received a grant worth approximately $170 million in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) competion, is led by UCSD and builds on the foundation of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). The equipment donated by Sun will enable researchers from SDSC and its NPACI partner organizations to investigate new approaches to multiple-processor system clustering, resource scheduling, user interfaces, and high performance data access.

"The Sun donation," said Sid Karin, "is important because it will help us implement our vision of a national metacomputing environment under NPACI." Karin is founding director of SDSC, director of NPACI, and director of the associated Center for Advanced Computational Science and Engineering at UCSD.

This environment will consist of geographically separated, heterogeneous, high performance compute and data servers linked together by high-speed networks so that their aggregate power may be applied to the most complex research problems that cannot be studied any other way. Sun is a key ally of SDSC's in developing and deploying this environment.

"We're pleased to provide Sun systems to UCSD to demonstrate next-generation supercomputer applications that represent very complex, computation-intensive research problems," said Barbara Gordon, vice president, Academic and Research Computing, Sun Microsystems Computer Company. "SDSC's work will showcase the scalability and power in SPARCTM/SolarisTM systems needed for such high performance, industrial-class applications."

"Computing environments in the 21st century will need to support computation-, data-, and network-intensive applications," said Norman Koo, director of the Chief Technology Office, Sun Microsystems, Inc. "SDSC has long maintained a leading research position in all these areas. We look forward to working with SDSC to advance the development of JavaTM -enabled, Web-based, hot-linked, transparent supercomputing that will contribute to the solutions of the future."

The donated equipment includes one 250-MHz UltraTM HPCTM 6000 server with 8 processors and 18 graphics workstations configured to support compute- and data-intensive applications. SDSC staff will test Sun's High Performance Computing (HPC) software and link the systems together in an HPC cluster, which will include a 4-processor, 250-MHz Ultra HPC 4000 server acquired separately by SDSC. This clustering will be accomplished using Sun's HPC software, which is based on technology developed by the "Network of Workstations" project led by David Culler, Tom Anderson, and Dave Patterson at UC Berkeley, an NPACI partner site. SDSC will work with researchers in the UCSD Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department in the School of Engineering to test and enhance this software to produce greater cluster robustness, and study the capabilities and performance of the cluster.

The cluster will also be used to support the following important SDSC research initiatives:

  • Transparent supercomputing: This work is applying the World Wide Web as a more user-friendly interface to supercomputers, databases, large archival storage systems, and other high-end computing services. In addition, SDSC will apply software that can determine automatically the least busy compute platform-across the cluster and by extension to SDSC's supercomputers-upon which to run a researcher's job, thereby providing the most efficient job turn around and eliminating the burden on the researcher to make this determination. This software, called AppLeS (for Application Level Scheduler), has been co-developed by Fran Berman, professor of CSE, and Rich Wolski, a research faculty member in CSE, who are both NPACI investigators.
  • Data-intensive computing: The Sun equipment will be used to experiment with parallel input/output over striped fibrechannel connections to increase the speed of and amount of data that can be transferred between large archival storage systems and databases. This work will be led by Reagan Moore, associate director for enabling technologies at SDSC.
  • Simpler scientific application development: Scott B. Baden, associate Professor of CSE and an NPACI investigator, will use the KeLP-MT software developed in his research group to study implementation tradeoffs in scientific applications. KeLP permits scientists to implement high performance applications more easily by shielding them from configuration differences among networked compute platforms.
  • High performance data access for drug design: SDSC biochemist Phil Bourne and colleagues will use the Sun equipment as part of their "Biological Data Representation and Query" initiative. In particular, they have developed a Web-based method to query biological data. This work has implications for drug design and protein classification leading to a better understanding of biological function. Bourne is also an adjunct associate professor in the Pharmacology department at UCSD and an NPACI investigator.

SDSC, a national laboratory for computational science and engineering, is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, other federal agencies, the State and University of California, and private organizations; is affiliated with the University of California, San Diego; and is administered by General Atomics. For more information, see or contact Ann Redelfs, SDSC,, 619-534-5032.

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