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Intel Turns to Light Beams to Speed Up Supercomputers

IDG News Service (11/17/14) Agam Shah

Intel has developed Thunderbolt, technology that uses optical cables and light pulses to move data in supercomputers, yielding potentially massive advances in high-performance computing. “If all your compute nodes are connected via photonics, it does start to make application performance look different,” says Intel’s Charlie Wuischpard. Thunderbolt uses light to connect computers to peripherals such as external hard drives at about 20 Gbps. In addition, Intel has developed an optical connector called MXC that can transfer data at speeds of up to 1.6 Tbps between servers. Analyst Nathan Brookwood says optics will facilitate performance advances while lowering power consumption, as the technology requires “a lot less power to send the signal in any arbitrary distance.” He notes although optical interfaces have been expensive to build, Intel has developed a cost-effective way to connect transmitters and receivers to systems. “Silicon photonics is technology whose time is coming,” Brookwood says. Optical technology also is important in surpassing the milestone of exascale computing. Intel says it wants to build a 1-exaflop supercomputer by 2022 that can fit in a 20-megawatt data center.

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11 Innovators Receive HPC Excellence Awards

Scientific Computing (11/18/14)

International Data Corporation announced the winners of the eighth round of its HPC Innovation Excellence Award, which recognized achievements in high-performance computing (HPC) and raising awareness of the importance of the field among business and policymakers. The latest winners include Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for their collaboration with U.S. and European researchers on new, high-fidelity simulations of nuclear reactors. The Centers for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospitals Kansas City was honored for its efforts to develop new clinical tests for pediatric patients. GIS Federal’s development of new data filtration, analytics, and visualization technology earned an award, as did North Carolina State University for its work on improving predictions of the thermal hydraulic behavior of nuclear reactors, and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project for its work researching methods to reduce aircraft noise, fuel consumption, and engine emissions. Central Michigan University’s use of HPC resources to simulate the behavior of tornadoes in supercell thunderstorms secured an award, while PayPal was honored for its development of real-time analytics using digital signal processing. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and Elekta AB won for simulations crucial to the development of the next generation of cancer radiotherapies.

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