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CMU Joins Forces in Repurposing Supercomputers

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (10/23/12) Debra Erdley

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the U.S. National Science Foundation, New Mexico Consortium, and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) recently launched the Parallel Reconfigurable Observational Environment (PRObE) program, a supercomputer research center using a cluster of 2,048 recently retired supercomputers from LANL.  “They decommission them every three or four years because the new computers make so much better results,” says CMU professor Garth Gibson.  PRObE partners successfully decommissioned and saved the computer clusters for reuse.  Although the main facility will stay in Los Alamos, CMU’s Parallel Data Lab in Pittsburgh will house two similar but smaller centers.  The Pittsburgh facilities will enable researchers to perform small experiments and demonstrate to the PRObE committee that they are ready to request time on the facility in Los Alamos.  “Unless they leave universities for government or industry jobs, researchers and students rarely have access to these expensive large-scale clusters,” Gibson says.  “That means they don’t get the training and education necessary to develop innovations.”  PRObE’s launch means that researchers will have the opportunity to experiment with supercomputers.  “We are taking a resource, handing it to scientists and saying, ‘Do your research on a dedicated facility,'” Gibson notes.

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China Is Building a 100-Petaflop Supercomputer

IDG News Service (10/31/12) Michael Kan

The Chinese National University of Defense Technology is developing Tianhe-2, a supercomputer expected to run at 100 petaflops when it is launched in 2015.  Tianhe-2 could help keep China competitive with the future supercomputers of other countries, as industry experts estimate computers will start reaching 1,000-petaflop performance by 2018.  The Chinese government is aiming for China’s supercomputers to reach 100 petaflops in 2015, and then 1 exaflop in 2018, according to Institute of Software Chinese Academy of Sciences professor Zhang Yunquan.  Chinese supercomputers previously have relied on U.S.-made chips and software, but the Chinese government wants to develop more homegrown technology in future supercomputer systems.  “I think in the future, as China tries to reach for exascale computing, the designs of these new supercomputers could fully rely on domestic processors,” Zhang says.  “I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility.”  The European Union, Japan, and the U.S. have similar goals to create 100-petaflop systems by 2015, according to University of Tennessee professor Jack Dongarra.  However, he notes building more powerful supercomputers is rife with technical and financial challenges.

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