Army lab puts Linux cluster into service

Army lab puts Linux cluster into service

One of the military's four chief supercomputing centers has put a 256-processor Linux cluster to work.

The system, which has a peak speed of 1.7 trillion floating operations per second, is the first Linux production cluster among the four major shared resource centers, said Thomas Kendall, chief systems engineer for the center at the Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Md. The centers are the backbone of the Defense Department's High-Performance Computing Modernization Program.

Lab officials did not specifically set out to install a Linux cluster, but chose it over proprietary Unix systems during the modernization program's most recent technology refreshment.

'It certainly competed on a level playing field with everything else out there,' Kendall said.

Linux Networx Inc. of Bluffdale, Utah, built the Army system, which uses 3.06-GHz Intel Pentium 4 Xeon processors and the company's own Clusterworx and Ice Box cluster management tools. Defense researchers will use the cluster for computational chemistry, shock physics and other complex simulations.

The new system will take over the workload of two recently retired SGI Origin 2000 computers, Kendall said. The lab, which runs its high-performance computers on a 42-month lifecycle, may also shut down one or two additional systems in the near future, he said.

The lab named the Linux cluster Powell after secretary of state Colin Powell. The Army's high-performance computing center has started to name its large systems after recently retired Army generals, Kendall said.

Powell occupies the 113th spot on the most recent Top 500 listing of the world's fastest supercomputers.

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