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Open-source software powers top US academic supercomputer

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  • From: "Moore, Gregory A" <>
  • To: <>
  • Subject: Open-source software powers top US academic supercomputer
  • Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 09:41:25 -0400
  • Disposition-notification-to: "Moore, Gregory A" <>

Contact: Christine Fitzpatrick
Office of the Vice President for Information Technology


Contact: Matt Link
University Information Technology Services


Open-source software powers top US academic supercomputer

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The newest edition of the 500 fastest supercomputers in
the world, released today, lists Indiana University's supercomputer cluster,
Big Red, as the fastest supercomputer among all US academic institutions and
ranked 23rd overall in the world-and it runs on open-source software.

Big Red consists of IBM's very latest technology, an e1350 BladeCenter
Cluster, that uses new chip technology and high speed internal networks to
perform calculations at very fast speeds. Running the SLES 9 operating
system, Big Red as of today is the largest IBM e1350 system in the world,
with a peak theoretical capability of 20.4 trillion mathematical operations
per second. It contains a total of 1024 dual-core IBM PowerPC 970 MP chips.
Each chip has two floating point processor elements, one vector processor per
chip, and runs at a clock rate of 2.5GHz. Big Red is made up of 512 JS21
Blade servers, each of which contains two IBM dual-core PowerPC 970MP
processors and 8GB of RAM. The JS21 Blade servers have Ethernet and
Myrinet2000 interconnects.

Indiana University will be relying on a suite of open-source software to
operate Big Red. Open-source software offers the best opportunity to achieve
high levels of performance and to get this very new and innovative system up
and running quickly so that it is producing new scientific breakthroughs as
rapidly as possible.

One of the tremendous challenges in achieving high levels of performance from
applications running on Big Red and other large supercomputers will be
managing multiple layers of complexity and many processors in the system. In
Big Red, each PowerPC 970 chip has two floating point units and a vector
unit. Two dual-core PowerPC970 processors share 8GB of RAM on one JS21 Blade
server and the 512 Blade servers in Big Red each have two different
communication paths with other parts of the system-Myrinet2000 and Ethernet.

To achieve the greatest parallel processing efficiency, IU will be using the
OpenMPI implementation of the Message Passing Interface (MPI) specification.
OpenMPI was created by an international consortium of several major research
labs including the Open Systems Lab, part of Pervasive Technology Labs at
Indiana University. OpenMPI provides especially advanced tools for taking
advantage of and effectively utilizing a complex supercomputer cluster such
as Big Red.

In addition, Indiana University will use the performance analysis tool Vampir
NG, produced by the Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden, to study and improve the
performance of applications running on this system. Vampir NG uses the
open-source Open Trace Format for storing data about application performance
on this system. As supercomputers get faster and more complex, open-source
software provides the capabilities and nimbleness required to extract the
best possible application performance-and thus the most important scientific
breakthroughs-from these massive new supercomputers.

Big Red will also play a major role in the TeraGrid, the National Science
Foundation's flagship effort to create an advanced national
cyberinfrastructure. Cyberinfrastructure refers to supercomputers, massive
data storage systems, advanced instruments, and people all connected by high
speed networks, enabling new possibilities in scientific research. The
National Science Foundation's goal for the TeraGrid is to make US scientific
research more productive and to enhance the international competitiveness of
US scientists. Big Red will be connected to the TeraGrid this summer, and
will at that time be the fastest supercomputer connected to this innovative
national grid computing system.

Indiana University is in the process of expanding its activities related to
high performance computing, and as a result has leadership openings
available. A search is underway for two leaders at the Director level.
Consideration of applications for these positions will begin July 10. For
additional details, see:

About Indiana University
Indiana University is one of the oldest state universities in the Midwest and
also one of the largest universities in the United States with more than
110,000 students, faculty, and staff on eight campuses. IU has a national
reputation in the areas of information technology and advanced networking.
For more information see To read more about why Indiana
University is red hot, see

About Pervasive Technology Labs
Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University pursues research in the
pervasive computing technologies that will help drive the 21st century
information economy. Funded by a $30 million grant from the Lilly Endowment,
Pervasive Technology Labs serves as an economic development catalyst for
Indiana's information technology sector by commercializing research through
technology transfer, commercialization of innovations produced in the labs,
and joint research and development partnerships with industry. For more
information, see

About University Information Technology Services
University Information Technology Services (UITS) at Indiana University, with
offices on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses, develops and maintains
a modern information technology environment throughout the university in
support of IU's vision for excellence in research, teaching, outreach, and
lifelong learning. UITS provides tools and services to support the academic
and administrative work of the university, including supercomputers for data
analysis and visualization. For more information, see

Editors: More information about IU's advanced cyberinfrastructure is
available at and at A general news release about Big Red is available at

This news release is online at


Gregory A. Moore
Senior Communications Specialist
Communications and Planning Office
University Information Technology Services
Indiana University
IT News in Focus at

  • Open-source software powers top US academic supercomputer, Moore, Gregory A, 06/28/2006

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