News Archive

NPACI Installs 128-node IBM RS/6000 SP to Support National HPC User Community

Published 11/18/1997

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI) and IBM recently installed a 128-node IBM RS/6000 SP parallel computing system at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, to meet the needs of high performance computing users to solve challenging problems in chemistry, astronomy, biology, physics, and other fields.

In the coming months, the RS/6000 SP will be used for such diverse applications as modeling the fluid dynamics of the heart, stellar atmospheres, the molecular dynamics of liquids and proteins, fundamental chemical processes in condensed matter, and properties of real materials at the microscopic level.

"High-end computational science and engineering users across the country are already benefiting from this very powerful platform," said Sid Karin, NPACI director. "In the future, we expect it to grow into a system capable of teraflops performance. Teraflops performance is a priority with us."

The staged installation will result in 128 uniprocessor nodes, each with a 160-MHz processor, the fastest available from IBM. The system is slated to be available for NPACI allocations to the national user community by January 1, 1998.

Peter Taylor, SDSC chemist and NPACI's chief applications scientist, has been using the RS/6000 SP to run a parallel version of the Dalton Quantum Chemistry Program to study the magnetic properties of large molecules. Prior to the arrival of SDSC's RS/6000 SP, the Dalton code ran locally on IBM RS/6000 systems, so the natural parallel implementation runs on the SP.

"We are using the RS/6000 SP as part of an aggressive program to run chemistry calculations on the highest-performance platforms available," Taylor said. "We are very pleased with the RS/6000 SP's reliability and speed."

To help the user community take advantage of the RS/6000 SP for scientific computations, NPACI's HPC consultants are preparing to include the IBM RS/6000 SP as one of the platforms covered in the parallel computing training class to be offered at SDSC January 28-30, 1998. NPACI's computing environment also includes a 48-node RS/6000 SP at the University of Michigan.

"The IBM RS/6000 SP is used by commercial and technical customers around the world to design safer jets, build more efficient and economical cars, and to power the most successful Web sites of our time," said Mike Henesey, program director, Scientific and Technical Computing, IBM RS/6000. "The installation of the RS/6000 SP at SDSC reflects our ongoing commitment to pushing the boundaries of computing in the scientific and technical segment."

NPACI and IBM are also establishing collaborative efforts in the areas of systems management, metacomputing, and shared-memory programming models on the RS/6000 SP, complementing efforts in data-intensive applications and digital libraries. This work follows ongoing projects between IBM and SDSC such as the Massive Data Analysis Testbed (MDAT).

As a result of the MDAT collaboration, NPACI is planning a petabyte archive. This archive will be a scaleable, high performance system to enable rapid access to enormous volumes of data that are currently inaccessible in a practical manner. The archive will be installed over the next five years, building on the current 200-terabyte High Performance Storage System (HPSS) archive at SDSC.

The key components of the archive will be an IBM RS/6000 SP with high data bandwidth nodes, IBM 3494 Tape Library Dataservers using high capacity 3590 Magstar tape drives, an IBM Serial Storage Architecture Disk Subsystem, IBM DB2 Parallel Edition relational database, and HPSS.

NPACI is a partnership of 37 research organizations working together to revolutionize computing to advance science and promote U.S. economic competitiveness in the 21st century. The partnership provides access to advanced computational resources, develops technologies to improve use of those resources, and integrates education and research. Led by the University of California, San Diego, and building upon the foundation established by SDSC, the partnership receives support from the National Science Foundation, the State of California, the University of California, and other partners.

For more information:
Ann Redelfs, NPACI, UCSD,, 619-534-5032