NSF funds multisite supercomputing network

NSF funds multisite supercomputing network

The National Science Foundation yesterday awarded $53 million to build the first multilocation supercomputing environment. The so-called teragrid will link multiple clusters of computers running Linux with a 40-Gbps optical network.

The three-year deal will allow a consortium led by two NSF-funded academic centers, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Urbana-Champaign, Ill., and the San Diego Supercomputing Center in California, to build the Distributed Terascale Facility. DTF will tie together four high-performance clusters with a combined theoretical peak speed of 11.6 trillion floating-point operations per second (TFLOPS).

In announcing the award, project leaders said the teragrid will link researchers at NCSA, SDSC and more than 100 other institutions who already have partnerships with the supercomputer centers under another NSF program.

IBM Corp. will build the Linux clusters using Intel Corp.'s second-generation 64-bit Itanium microprocessor, code-named McKinley and slated for production during the first half of 2002. Qwest Communications International Inc. of Denver is the project's main contractor for building the network infrastructure, which NCSA director Dan Reed said would run 16 times faster than today's speediest research network.

NCSA and SDSC will host the two largest DTF clusters, with smaller clusters at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Along with NASA, Energy and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, NSF has been funding grid-computing research since the mid-1990s. An Argonne-based project called Globus has been developing middleware that enables distant researchers to tap into supercomputers.

'It takes a community to build a grid,' said Rick Stevens, an Argonne and University of Chicago scientist who will serve as DTF project director. 'This is something that's harder than any single institution could do alone.'

DTF, scheduled to start operating in mid-2002 and to reach peak performance in April 2003, will be open to researchers in such fields as climate prediction, earthquake prediction, astronomy, genomics and pharmaceuticals.

'We really view the DTF as the beginning of the 21st-century scientific infrastructure,' Reed said at yesterday's press conference

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