Euro supercomputing initiative welcomes users

European researchers can now turn to a new supercomputing network for help in their scientific endeavors.

"We have just completed testing," said David Henty with the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, a member of the Distributed European Infrastructure for Supercomputing Applications (DEISA) consortium. "Our new supercomputing network is now open for business."

The DEISA consortium, which was launched in May and is partially funded by the European Union under its 6th Framework Program, consists of eight national supercomputing centers in Europe. Its mission: to jointly build and operate a distributed terascale supercomputing facility aimed not only at supporting scientific discovery across a broad spectrum of science and technology, but also at advancing European computer science, especially in the area of grid technology.

In the current first phase, four of the centers have linked their IBM supercomputers, providing more than 4,000 processors that can achieve processing speeds of over 22T flops (a teraflop is a trillion calculations per second).

In a second phase, expected to begin later next year, at least two more centers are expected to connect their supercomputers, adding several teraflops of processing power. In addition, DEISA's dedicated network will be upgraded from its current transmission speed of 1G bps (bit per second) to 10G bps.

The consortium is currently in talks with Spain's supercomputing center at the Polytechnic University in Barcelona, which will soon receive a new supercomputer, according to Henty. "The Spanish center would add substantial power to our supercomputing network," he said.

Last week, IBM and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science introduced a new supercomputer, the "MareNostrum," which they contend will be the most powerful in Europe and among the 10 most powerful in the world. The supercomputer employs a cluster of 2,520 eServer BladeCenter JS20 systems running the Linux operating system. It currently comprises 3,564 PowerPC processors but will have 4,564 processors by the time it is fully completed, according to IBM.

MareNostrum is being built by IBM and the Spanish government for scientific and industrial research into the human body, meteorology, environment and industrial processes. The system, which is currently located at an IBM technical center in Madrid, is due to be moved to its permanent home in Barcelona by the end of the year.

IBM's new 16,000-processor BlueGene/L supercomputer recently edged out Japan's Earth simulator, built by rival NEC, according to benchmarks run by Big Blue.

For now, however, Europe's four initial supercomputing centers -- France's Institut du Developpement et des Ressources en Informatique Scientifique, Italy's Consorzio Interuniversitario and Germany's Forschungszentrum Julich and Rechenzentrum Garching of the Max Planck Society -- will rely on their installed base of lower-performance IBM computers, including the P690, P690+ and P655 models.

Although IBM plays a huge role in DEISA, the company will soon be joined by Silicon Graphics. Next year, the Netherland's SARA Computing Network Services center is scheduled to connect its STG Altix supercomputer equipped with 416 Itanium processors.

The new supercomputing facilities are aimed at European researchers working in several key areas of science and technology, including materials science, cosmology, plasma physics, industrial fluid dynamics and the life sciences, including biotechnology.

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