Press Archive

SDSC Team Brings Unprecedented Networking to SUPERCOMPUTING '95

Published 11/13/1995

The network facilities of the annual SUPERCOMPUTING conference are pushed to their limits every year, as exhibitors attempt to demonstrate that they have kept pace with the latest advances in data communications. This December's SUPERCOMPUTING '95 conference is no exception--the network will have to meet the most challenging demands ever posed by a gathering of computer users. Fortunately, the conference organizers will have access to some of the most advanced technology currently available.

Jay Dombrowski, Network Manager of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), is leading a team of SDSC network specialists to design and construct an internal data communications network for SC '95. This dedicated, high-bandwidth, high performance network is called SCinet. The SCinet team is collaborating with the groups that will use the SC '95 information infrastructure to ensure the convention's compatibility with a wide range of high performance networking technologies.

One element of this infrastructure is the I-WAY, an experimental continent-wide network that will link dozens of the country's fastest computers and advanced visualization environments. This network also is based on ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) technology and is being built from a combination of new and existing wide-area networks, facilities, and services. National supercomputing sites will be nodes on this network, giving the entire system a peak processing level approaching a teraflops and allowing the I-WAY to showcase distributed computing environments, the use of supercomputing to support immersive virtual environments, security mechanisms for wide-area computing, and advanced end-to-end network management. Other activities and applications that SCinet will support include live digital video transmission, high-speed data communications at individual exhibits, video server technology demonstrations, and the WAVE (Wide Area Visualization Experimental)--a local experimental network that will support more than 50 scientific visualization and virtual reality applications. "The combination of I-WAY, WAVE, and traditional SCinet activities makes the SC '95 networking challenge one of the most sophisticated yet," says Dombrowski.

The SCinet backbone will be based on ATM data communications, with more than 250 switched connections supporting point-to-point data transfers at speeds of 155 Mb/s (OC3c protocol). Links to other networks also will be supported, including FDDI (100 Mb/s), Ethernet (10 Mb/s), and serial HIPPI (800 Mb/s). SCinet cable will network not only the traditional exhibition area but also the meeting rooms and the I-WAY display area. The SC'95 network design at the San Diego Convention Center will be based entirely on fiber optic cable, which can carry far more information than the traditional coaxial cable used for Ethernet or cable TV signals. "One vendor commented that the SC'95 fiber order was the largest single order they had ever received," says Dombrowski. SDSC is a user of the vBNS, the National Science Foundation's ATM-based research network. The NSF's vBNS technical committee will allow computing sites nationwide to submit usage requests for high-speed links to SC'95. SDSC will become the focal point of wide-area network access, providing a gateway through SCinet that will allow vBNS users (NRaD, AAI, DOD, DOE, CASA, and others) to gain access to the convention center to participate in SC'95.

When the information architecture is completed, the convention center will have 15 OC3 ATM lines (at 155 Mb/s), for a total of more than 2.3 Gb/s of data transfer capacity--an unprecedented degree of connectivity. Conference organizers and convention center officials are exploring the feasibility of leaving the network in place after the conference to support future activities, including the 1996 Republican Convention.

The San Diego Supercomputer Center, a national laboratory for computational science and engineering, is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, administered by General Atomics, and affiliated with the University of California, San Diego. For additional information, refer to SDSC's World Wide Web server at or contact Ann Redelfs, SDSC, 619-534-5032,

For more information, contact:

Ann Redelfs
San Diego Supercomputer Center
(619)534-5077 (FAX)