NSF launches first phase of TeraGrid

NSF launches first phase of TeraGrid

The National Science Foundation has declared its grid-computing project, known as TeraGrid, open for business.

The first phase of the distributed computing grid switched to production mode this month, and about a dozen scientific teams are working on research programs, said Rob Pennington, interim director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Illinois.

NSF wants TeraGrid to become the world's largest distributed computing infrastructure, open to researchers on a competitive basis. Scientists, chosen by peer review last fall for the first round of research on TeraGrid, will use the distributed computers to study groundwater pollution, the dynamics of biological molecules and the universe's evolution.

The supercomputers now on TeraGrid have a combined peak performance of 4.5 trillion floating-point operations per second. The IBM Corp. Linux clusters, with more than 800 Intel Itanium 2 processors, are located at NCSA and the San Diego Supercomputing Center, two of the original four partners in the NSF project.

The goal of the first phase is 'to get a respectable computer infrastructure on the ground' and to work on software development, Pennington said. Each of the four main TeraGrid partner sites has had to adjust its software infrastructure for compatibility with the other partners.

'We've had cases where very slightly different versions of a computer would make a program not run properly,' Pennington said. TeraGrid officials have also paid attention to creating a consistent look and feel to the member sites' user interfaces.

Last year, TeraGrid acquired another four Linux clusters from IBM [see GCN story]. TeraGrid officials hope to add another 11 TFLOPS of computing oomph to the grid when the newly installed clusters go into production this spring at the Illinois and San Diego centers, as well as the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory and California Institute of Technology.

Another project on tap this spring is integrating the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center's 6-TFLOPS Terascale Computing Facility into TeraGrid. The Hewlett-Packard Co. supercomputer, with its proprietary Unix operating system, will be the first heterogeneous system in the grid, Pennington said.

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