TeraGrid adds four Linux clusters

The National Science Foundation's grid-computing project is getting four new Linux clusters for distributed computing.

The clusters, to be built by IBM Corp., will contain a mixture of Intel Corp.'s second- and third-generation 64-bit processors, said Richard Hilderbrandt, NSF's program officer for the TeraGrid.

The 64-bit Itanium 2 came out last summer. Intel's third-generation, 1.5-GHz Madison version of the Itanium 2 was released this summer.

The four original TeraGrid partners'the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, San Diego Supercomputing Center, the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory and California Institute of Technology'will get the four Linux clusters.

Last fall, NSF expanded the TeraGrid to connect with a Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center system that can execute 6 trillion floating-point operations per second. That computer, however, uses a different processor architecture and proprietary Unix.

When configured with a mix of about 2,000 Itanium 2 and Madison processors, the NCSA system will run at a theoretical peak rate of 10 TFLOPS, Hilderbrandt said.

The proportion of Madison and Itanium 2 chips hasn't been determined yet, said Robert Pennington, NCSA's senior associate director for computing and data management. Early tests indicate the two processors will be binary-compatible, he said.

The San Diego cluster will have a top speed of 4 TFLOPS, Hilderbrandt said. The Argonne cluster, dedicated to detailed visualizations, will run at 1 TFLOPS, and the Caltech cluster will have a peak of 0.5 TFLOPS.

A 40-Gbps network will link the TeraGrid's two hubs in Chicago and Los Angeles. Each of the five centers will connect to the hubs at 30 Gbps.

So far, NSF has funded the TeraGrid through $80 million in construction grants. Hilderbrandt said the agency is now taking bids on another $10 million project to connect other resources, which could be data archives, sensor networks or other computing centers.

TeraGrid officials chose Linux for the clusters because they believe it will become the dominant operating system for research, Pennington said. Argonne led the development of an open-source, grid-computing toolkit called Globus, which the TeraGrid will use.

The environment will look as uniform as possible to end users, regardless of how many grid-linked supercomputers they are using. 'It's no longer the case that you have to go to a particular site because your data is there,' Pennington said.

Powering the four clusters will be a specially designed version of Linux for the Itanium 2 from SuSE Inc. of Oakland, Calif. The company is marketing the Itanium 2 distribution as SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, said Holger Dyroff, North American general manager for SuSE, a division of SuSE Linux AG of Germany.

SuSE previously offered a Linux distribution for Intel's first-generation Itanium, released two years ago. It had slow sales as vendors and customers awaited Itanium 2.

'Itanium 2 is definitely a platform for the enterprise, which will accept it more widely than the first Itanium was,' Dyroff said.

SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8's main competition is Red Hat Linux Advanced Server for the Itanium from Red Hat Inc. of Raleigh, N.C. Red Hat makes a version of Linux for workstations with Itanium 2 processors, and Dyroff said SuSE will do the same 'as soon as it makes sense for us commercially.' In the meantime, Enterprise Server 8 could run on Itanium 2 workstations, he said.

SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 sells for $1,449, including one year of security updates and patch delivery.

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