PSC News Center

Pittsburgh Connects to Ultrafast Grid

A light pipeline ties the East to the West of national cyberinfrastructure.

PITTSBURGH, August 25, 2003 — The nation’s most powerful, academically-based computing resource — LeMieux, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s terascale system — is now linked with supercomputers in Illinois and California as part of the TeraGrid, an integrated national system of cyberinfrastructure.

Network engineers at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) successfully implemented and tested a light pipeline that connects PSC to the Chicago hub of the TeraGrid’s high-speed “backplane,” which links the five TeraGrid sites.

“Along with providing an eastern U.S. node for the TeraGrid,” said PSC scientific directors Mike Levine and Ralph Roskies in a joint statement, “this is an important first step toward a wide-area computational grid that encompasses terascale systems of different architecture.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the TeraGrid is a multi-year effort to deploy the world’s fastest, most comprehensive distributed-computing infrastructure for open scientific research. Analogous to an electrical power grid, the TeraGrid makes computational power available to scientists and engineers nationwide as a seamless resource, without regard to physical location of the computing systems on the grid.

“Many of us in many places are working together to create the TeraGrid,” said Rick Stevens of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, TeraGrid project director. “This work will empower U.S. research in science and engineering for years to come. The Pittsburgh to Chicago connection is a major step toward bringing this vision of integrated national cyberinfrastructure into reality.”

Implemented in February, the TeraGrid’s Chicago-Los Angeles backplane moves data at 40 gigabits per second, the fastest network in the world. It is referred to as a backplane — a circuit board with plug-in slots for other devices — because the TeraGrid is conceived of as a single national machine for science and engineering research, with powerful systems in different places that plug-in to the backplane. The Pittsburgh to Chicago link currently operates at 10 gigabits per second. The rate will triple to 30 gigabits per second this fall, when two more fiber-optic pipelines — called lambdas — are implemented.

TeraGrid partner sites, along with PSC, are the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne), and the Caltech Center for Advanced Computing Research (CACR). When completed, the TeraGrid will include 20 teraflops of computing power, facilities capable of managing and storing nearly one petabyte of data, high-resolution visualization environments, and toolkits for grid computing.

Phase I of the TeraGrid, to be available in December 2003, will offer four teraflops of computing power, consisting of more than 800 Itanium-family processors (running the Linux operating system), at SDSC, NCSA, Argonne and CACR. LeMieux, an HP system comprising 3,000 Alpha processors (Tru64 UNIX operating system), will add six teraflops of processing power but also poses the challenge of “interoperability” — to create a grid environment integrating heterogeneous system architectures. The TeraGrid has established a PSC-led Interoperability Working Group to develop the necessary software.

The PSC lambda connects directly to a router, supplied by Cisco Systems, Inc., located in the PSC machine room in Monroeville, outside of Pittsburgh. A device called an Application Gateway will bridge between the router and LeMieux. The Application Gateway will run software, developed by PSC, that translates between the TeraGrid network and LeMieux’s internal network.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with the Westinghouse Electric Company. It was established in 1986 and is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry.

See also:
Pittsburgh supercomputing center joining powerful national grid, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Supercomputer linking with four sites, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


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Michael Schneider
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Trish Barker
National Center for Supercomputing Applications

Merry Maisel
San Diego Supercomputer Center

Mary Spada
Argonne National Laboratory

Sarah Emery Bunn

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