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PSC, Numascale AS to Collaborate on Improved Memory Systems for Research

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Numascale AS to Collaborate on Improved Memory Systems for Research

June 28, 2013

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), Pennsylvania’s only National Science Foundation high performance computing facility, and Numascale AS, whose products support the construction of low-cost, scalable-server computer systems, have launched a collaborative project investigating the applicability of Numascale systems to the many research projects requiring more directly addressable memory than is readily available on single, commodity, multi-socket, large memory servers.

“Rapid advancement in many scientific fields of data-dependent research will be facilitated by the availability of larger memory systems at near commodity prices,” says Michael J. Levine, scientific director, PSC. “Having large amounts of data in directly-addressable memory avoids very time-consuming disk input/output and allows a much more productive programming paradigm.”

The field of supercomputing is well known for engineering extreme processing speeds but increasingly, researchers’ calculations are limited not by the speed of processing but access to and efficient use of vast amounts of data. Application areas that require very large memories include natural language processing, multi-organism genomics and quantum chemistry.

“We see the collaboration with Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center as an important milestone for utilizing NumaConnectTM for a number of applications that have previously been limited by inferior memory capacity in standard servers,” says Einar Rustad, CTO and co-founder of Numascale. “The huge and scalable memory capacity in systems with NumaConnect allows users to operate in the familiar programming and runtime environment they are used to with workstations.”

This, Rustad explains, eliminates the need for explicit message passing and significantly reduces the overall time from idea to solution for a number of important applications in many scientific fields. “PSC's unique expertise will strengthen our focus on applications that are key to advances in major scientific fields and help us to widen the market for Numascale.”

The collaboration between PSC and Numascale seeks to leverage PSC’s unique and extensive experience with very large memory computing systems and Numascale’s NumaConnect memory technology to produce systems capable of handling such large data volumes without memory-retrieval lags. NumaConnect uses commodity servers as building blocks to provide memory capacities and retrieval speeds currently only available through high-end and enterprise-class systems. PSC’s application specialists will work with Numascale engineers and application programmers to find ways the two organizations’ experience and expertise can be combined synergistically.

Argonne, PSC Staff Shepherd NSF Network’s Internet2 Migration

Opening the Flood Gates

Argonne, PSC Staff Shepherd Internet2 Migration, Give XSEDE Network Bandwidth Needed for Big Data Era

Monday, June 24, 2013

Thanks to personnel at Argonne National Laboratory and PSC — chiefly Linda Winkler, senior network engineer, Argonne; Joseph Lappa, principal network design engineer, PSC and Kathy Benninger, network performance engineer, PSC — the National Science Foundation’s network of supercomputing sites now has the “pipe capacity” it will need to keep pace with the Big Data era.

XSEDE, the National Science Foundation’s U.S.-wide network of high performance computing centers, which includes Argonne and PSC, has migrated its data network to Internet2, a vastly higher-capacity system than the previous carrier. XSEDE’s improved network will enable sites to achieve connection rates of up to 100 Gigabit per second (100 GE) — 10 times faster than currently possible. The architecture of the new system will also enable a number of upgrades that will help the transfer of data through the system.The XSEDE Data Network

As part of the Internet2 migration, Lappa has taken on new responsibilities for the XSEDE network. Newly appointed as XSEDE’s operations networking manager, he will be XSEDE’s main contact with Internet2. In this role, he and his team will monitor the performance of the new network, oversee details of transitioning sites to 100 GE, assist with campus bridging and help Internet2’s programmers and service representatives optimize and tailor the network to XSEDE and its users’ needs.

The approaching bottleneck

In 2006, Senator Ted Stevens made the mistake of referring to the Internet as “a series of tubes.” He instantly became the brunt of jokes about a guy who grew up in a time when people communicated via post, in cursive script, trying to make sense of an email world. But to be fair, it isn’t such a bad metaphor.

Information — data — is as critical to our economy and society as fresh drinking water is to our homes. Like the plumbing running through our houses, the Internet transports data through “pipes” that are limited both by their size and by the capacity their “faucets” can deliver.

Users at XSEDE sites employ some of the largest, fastest computers in the world to generate vast volumes of data. Moving those data between researchers, the supercomputers and storage sites is no small mission. To accomplish that job, XSEDE originally built what was then one of the highest-capacity, most reliable networks in the world.

“Advanced networking is critical … to support the researchers and educators who are making innovative use of our … resources,” says John Towns, XSEDE project director, noting that XSEDE supplies about 8,000 users with 17 supercomputers, data storage and management tools and networking resources.

In the Information Age, though, technology ages quickly. As the XSEDE network and its demands grew, it began to approach the limits of its infrastructure: in particular, a potential bottleneck between XSEDE sites in Denver and Chicago loomed large.

“As far as the technical reasons for migrating to Internet2, it was the ‘speeds and feeds’ problem,” Lappa says. A factory, for example, can perform an operation on a product quickly (speed). But if it can’t then move the next product up the line (feed) fast enough, that speed is wasted. Similarly, the blinding speed of XSEDE’s computing machines was in danger of being made far less relevant by the approaching difficulty of getting data into and out of them.

Unclogging the pipes

Internet2’s 100 GE backbone proved to be the solution to the problem, Benninger says. “With 100 GE, there is a clearer path to allow us to operate.”

While not all the sites will initially have 100 GE connections to the new backbone, she adds, the system will have room to grow to meet the next three years’ needs. Currently, Indiana University and Purdue University share a 100 GE connection, with a number of other sites planning to upgrade over the next several years.

In addition to supplying the leadership for the migration process, PSC also served as one of the first sites on the new network, testing out and helping Internet2 improve and customize the system to serve XSEDE’s needs.

Internet2’s architecture offers a big plus in terms of managing data flow with what’s known as “dynamic provisioning capability.” If a particular network path between two sites is congested with large data flows, a network engineer can establish a virtual local area network (VLAN) to route additional data transfers over an alternate path.

Future upgrades

In addition to optimizing the network and helping sites connect with the backbone or upgrade to 100 GE, Benninger and Lappa will support efforts by a number of PSC and XSEDE staff to add new functions that take advantage of the higher bandwidth.

  • The XSEDE-wide File System (XWFS) will allow the increasingly large files required by researchers to be moved rapidly between XSEDE sites.
  • Web 10G, developed by Chris Rapier, PSC network programmer, Andrew K. Adams, PSC network engineer and John Estabrook, network programmer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will monitor data flowing from servers to the network to help pinpoint sources of slowdown even as they happen.
  • VLAN (virtual local area network) provisioning will allow any two XSEDE sites to set up a “virtual network” between the two sites that performs as if it were a direct, hard-wire data connection, avoiding the need to set up potentially complex routing through the network.

Pitt / PSC Computer Simulations Highlight Need to Increase Focus on Vaccine Transport

Lack of Reliable Transportation Undermines Delivery of Lifesaving Vaccines

University of Pittsburgh / Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Computer Simulations Highlight Need to Increase Focus on Vaccine Transport

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Transportation of vaccines is a critical component for improving vaccination rates in low-income countries and warrants more attention, according to a computer simulation by the HERMES Logistics Modeling Team at the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC). The team recently reported their findings in the PLOS ONE online journal (

Each year, millions of dollars of potentially lifesaving vaccines fail to reach populations throughout the world. Most aid programs tend to focus more on purchasing vaccines or donating refrigerators and freezers to help ensure vaccine delivery. The computer simulation of the West African nation of Niger showed that improving transportation as well could improve vaccine availability among children and mothers from roughly 50 percent to more than 90 percent.

PSC, Notre Dame to Supply Computer Infrastructure to Global Malaria Project

PSC, Notre Dame to Supply Computer Infrastructure for Global Malaria Eradication Project

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) and the University of Notre Dame have received up to $1.6 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a system of computers and software for the Vector Ecology and Control Network (VECNet), an international consortium to eradicate malaria. The new VECNet Cyber-Infrastructure Project (CI) will support VECNet’s effort to unite research, industrial and public policy efforts to attack one of the worst diseases in the developing world in more effective, economical ways.

“VECNet is about bringing order out of chaos,” says Tom Burkot, VECNet’s principal investigator and professor and tropical leader at James Cook University, Australia. “The challenge we have is that we’re trying to control and eliminate malaria in a world in which, for example, there are 40 or 50 dominant mosquito species that are important for its spread.” The CI project, he adds, is intended to decrease the complexity of engaging in the problem so that malaria researchers, national malaria control officials, product developers, and policy makers can all contribute to solutions.

PSC Patents Software Against Supercomputing System Failures

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Scientists Patent Software for Protecting Supercomputing Results Against System Failures

PITTSBURGH, April 8, 2013 — Scientists at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) have patented ZEST, a piece of software that takes a rapid “snapshot” of a supercomputer’s calculations as it works. ZEST greatly speeds the ability to store complex calculations as a hedge against a system failure, saving precious supercomputing time and slowing calculations down far less than current methods.

Research Internships in Big Data Available at PSC

Research Internships in Big Data Available at PSC

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), a joint project of Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, and Westinghouse Electric Company, has openings for two undergraduate student interns to gain research experience relating to graph analytics for big data. The Sherlock project ( explores novel approaches to large-scale analytics, especially graph analytics and the development of sophisticated, heterogeneous workflows for big data. Sherlock features sophisticated, purpose-built computer hardware – a YarcData uRiKA data appliance with PSC enhancements – and optimized implementations of W3C-standard software. Research opportunities may include elements of data modeling and analysis, application development using RDF and SPARQL or natively on the graph analytic platform, and performance analysis. These internships, supervised by senior members of PSC’s Strategic Applications Group, will provide unique experience at the frontier of big data research.

Applicants should send CVs and statements of interest to Dr. Nick Nystrom at

PSC's Nick Nystrom on Our Region's Business talks SHERLOCK and Big Data [Video]

Sherlock: The Next Big Thing in the Big Data World

PSC's Nick Nytrom talks about Sherlock, a uRiKA graph-analytics appliance from YarcData designed to discover unknown relationships or patterns hidden in extremely large and complex bodies of information.


PSC and ANSYS Partner to Provide High Performance Computing for Academic Research

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and ANSYS Partner to Provide High Performance Computing for Academic Research

Pittsburgh, February 4, 2013 — Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) today announced the formation of a strategic academic partnership with ANSYS (NASDAQ: ANSS), a leader in engineering simulation software. PSC is a national center for high-performance computing, funded by multiple federal and state agencies and a service provider (SP) in the NSF XSEDE program, enabling computational science nationwide. As a result of the new partnership, PSC will be able to provide exceptional engineering simulation resources to academia. It will be the only SP in the XSEDE program to offer access to the full ANSYS multiphysics simulation software suite.

PSC Symposium Launches “Sherlock”

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Symposium Launches “Sherlock”

Will Discover Relationships in Complex Masses of Data

On February 1, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) will host an event and symposium to launch its newest supercomputer, Sherlock. A uRiKA graph-analytics appliance from YarcData, Sherlock is designed to discover unknown relationships or patterns hidden in extremely large and complex bodies of information.

Attendees may register for the event at:

PSC Media Contacts

Media / Press Contact(s):

Kenneth Chiacchia
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Vivian Benton
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Website Contact

Shandra Williams
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

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