Corps of Engineers upgrades Crays to simulate clearing of land mines

Corps of Engineers upgrades Crays to simulate clearing of land mines

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

The Army Corps of Engineers has upgraded its SGI Cray T3E-900 supercomputer to a 544-processor T3E-1200E model.

The souped-up machine will be put to use simulating the motions of plow blades that are used to clear land mines and the movement of contaminants through the soil at former military sites.

The minefield clearing simulations involve modeling the trajectories of more than 10 million soil particles.

William White, Cray T3E and SV2 product manager for SGI, said the corps' Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Miss., took delivery of the upgraded supercomputer in February.

Jeff Holland, a senior researcher at Vicksburg, said he could not comment on the acquisition.

Fifteen of the top 24 supercomputers on the Top 500 list [GCN, June 28, Page 1] are Cray T3E systems, White said. The list ranks computers by theoretical peak performance; sustained performance on real problems is lower.

White attributed the T3E's performance with large-scale scientific computing to the tight processor coupling and low latency. Any processor can access any memory location within 1 or 2 microseconds, he said, in contrast with latencies of tens to thousands of microseconds seen on clustered supercomputers.

The Corps of Engineers replaced the original 42 eight-processor modules in its T3E and added 26 new ones to make a total of 68 modules, White said.

The new processors are Alpha EV5.6 chips with a clock speed of 600 MHz. The replacements raise the T3E's peak speed from 300 billion to 652 billion floating-point operations per second.

'It's kind of an all-around upgrade, not just a processor boost,' White said. System bandwidth also increased from 60 gigabytes/sec to 120 gigabytes/sec. The T3E has 151G of memory.

The Waterways Engineering Station's sister site in Mississippi, the Naval Oceanographic Center, also took delivery of an upgraded Cray at the same time, White said.

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