Energy works on high-end supercomputer WANs

Energy works on high-end supercomputer

Technologies include end-to-end parallel networks and parallel data-movement applications

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

The Energy Department's weapon-simulation supercomputers will talk over WANs at a target speed of 100 Gbps by 2004, a Sandia National Laboratories official said.

Dona L. Crawford, director of Sandia's Advanced Product Realization Program, said the lab is working to incorporate dense-wave-division multiplexing, high-speed encryption and related techniques into a WAN connecting Energy's three sites in the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative.

After recent upgrades, all three ASCI massively parallel machines, the fastest in the world, have theoretical peak speeds around 3 trillion floating-point operations per second, Crawford said at the Supercomputing '99 conference.

Over the next five years, Energy wants machines with peak speeds of 10, 30 and 100 TFLOPS. Only one will be built at each rate, however, and none will be at Sandia. That is why researchers at the laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., are interested in high-speed networking to use the massive supercomputers from a distance, Crawford said.

ASCI's road map for networking roughly parallels the planned growth in computing speeds: 10 Gbps by next year, 30 Gbps by mid-2001 and 100 Gbps when the fastest ASCI supercomputer comes online in 2004, she said.

The technologies include end-to-end parallel networks, more efficient network interfaces and parallel data-movement applications, Crawford said.

Sandia's efforts to create an eight-way parallel IP architecture for its local network resulted in rates of 60 megabytes/sec, Crawford said.

To open the way from the local parallel network to a WAN, researchers must extend the local parallel IP architecture and use higher-speed transmission capabilities while protecting classified data, Crawford said.

In one proposed architecture for the ASCI network, the user LAN at each site would talk to an authentication gateway, which would route data one of two ways depending on the classified or open nature of the computing project.

Virtual security

An encrypted WAN would handle unclassified data; an encrypted parallel high-speed WAN would work within a virtual security zone for classified data, she said.

Most nuclear weapons data is classified and must be protected by National Security Agency-approved Type 1 encryption.

A point-to-point encryption architecture, which Crawford called the traditional approach, encrypts a continuous bitstream. She said it cannot scale to the massive network planned for ASCI.

The end-to-end method encrypts only user data and allows routing based on header data. That would permit a shared WAN service among the Energy labs participating in ASCI, with reduced cost to all, Crawford said.

Energy and the Defense Department are developing a high-speed, end-to-end, Type 1 encryption technique called UltraFastlane, Crawford said.

The conference, sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Computer Society and an interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery, also featured a keynote addess by Donna Shirley, former manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

NASA's loss

Shirley, now an assistant dean at the University of Oklahoma's College of Engineering, said the space agency lost the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft because it carried its better-faster-cheaper mantra too far. NASA officials attributed the loss to failing to convert English units to metric equivalents in some navigational calculations.

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