Tats for the Air Force HPC systems
When starting up a delivery of a new high-performance computer system, it is always important ' for morale, if nothing else ' to christen your new mechanical beast. And you really should put some thought into the name.
In 2004, NASA Ames named its SGI Altix system Columbia in honor of the space shuttle of the same name. It was fitting: The namesake computer system would be used to study how the Columbia shuttle met its tragic end. On the East Coast, University of Maryland-Baltimore County's 64-processor cluster was dubbed Kali, after the Hindu goddess with many arms.
The Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center's Major Shared Resource Center, one of four Defense Department centers that administer the supercomputer systems for all the services, outdoes everyone. Not only does it come up with significant names for its systems, but even has artwork for them. In doing so, it follows a long Air Force tradition.
According to technical director Jeff Graham, the center has been naming its latest purchases after Air Force aircraft. Two systems purchased in 2005, for example, were called Eagle and Falcon, named after the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Falcon, respectively.
But ASC MSRC goes beyond naming their systems after aircraft. Like Air Force aircraft, these systems get nose art as well. What is nose art? A longstanding tradition of personalized decorations on aircraft fighters.
According to the fall issue of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base's Wright Cycles journal, the idea of outfitting a fighter craft with some symbolic art originated in 1913 when a sea monster was painted on the bottom of an Italian Flying Boat. The idea flourished through the subsequent world wars.
So the ASC MSRC continues that tradition into the electronic age. Now each system it procures carries on one of its racks a replica of the nose art for the aircraft it was named after. In this way, the center can honor the heroic pilots of yore while showing how the supercomputer centers' work supports today's troops in much the same way that these brave souls did in the past.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.