October 9, 1997
BERKELEY, CA-The National Energy Research Scientific Computing
Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will join
Intel Corp.and UC Berkeley in creating a new "system of computer
systems" to carry out research and evaluate technologies for a new
generation of supercomputers.
Called "Millennium," the three-year, $6 million project is aimed
at allowing researchers in 17 different campus units to work locally
on small clusters of computers, as well as tap into a much larger
cluster which will be a campus-wide resource, to perform scientific
research. Not only will individual departments have greater computing
resources, but Millennium will create a campus-wide computational
resource to support growing collaborations.
NERSC, which has established close research partnerships with Berkeley's
Mathematics and Computer Science departments, will receive a cluster
of Intel workstations under the agreement. NERSC's cluster will
be used to test various applications and configurations as a possible
computer architecture for the supercomputing center of the next
For its part, NERSC will "port," or adapt, sophisticated software
tools from its library for use on the campus system. NERSC has a
lot of specialized expertise not available on campus, according
to Bill Saphir of NERSC's Future Technologies Group, including extensive
experience in setting up and running large computer systems. The
center, established in 1974, is currently home to six Cray supercomputers.
"This is precisely the kind of Lab-campus collaboration the Department
of Energy envisioned when they decided to establish the NERSC program
at Berkeley Lab," said Associate Lab Director William McCurdy, head
of Computing Sciences at the Laboratory. "NERSC brings to Millennium
a unique contribution of its staff and a select group of users from
its national user community. Both of these groups have experience
in working with new computer architectures - like Millennium - to
make them productive scientific computing tools."
As an example of the collaboration, Millennium principal investigator
James Demmel is a professor of computer science and mathematics
at Cal with a joint appointment in the Lab's Future Technologies
Group. Likewise for David Culler, who is chief architect of the
Millennium system and a computer science professor with a joint
appointment at the Lab. Conversely, NERSC Division Director Horst
Simon also teaches computer sciences classes on campus.
"This is another success story for the NERSC Future Technologies
Group," said Simon, who initiated this group about a year ago with
the goal of facilitating collaboration with the UC Berkeley campus
and industry. "What makes this project so compelling is that we've
found an effective way to rapidly evaluate technologies such as
Millennium for meeting DOE's future supercomputing needs."
The planned centerpiece of the Millennium technology is a 288-processor
"network of workstations," which is a very large version of the
smaller networks in campus departments and at NERSC. Together, the
linked Millennium computers will have a computing capacity comparable
to that of the most powerful supercomputers.
The Millennium system will be a massively parallel processor computer,
but in a much different configuration than NERSC currently uses.
Because the experimental system will be located so close to Berkeley
Lab, NERSC staff will be able to evaluate its potential for meeting
future supercomputing requirements by combining off-the-shelf components
with specialized computer codes.
"One of the most exciting aspects of Millennium is the potential
to demonstrate that you can take a large number mass-market commodity
PCs and networks, harness them together with some special software,
and get a powerful supercomputer for less than the current prices
of supercomputers," Saphir said. "People have tried for years to
do this, but no one has done it convincingly, and with the rock-solid
reliability we need for the production computers at NERSC."
Millennium is one component of Intel's Technology for Education
2000 program. The three-year, $85 million grant program will support
university research and curriculum development and help place PCs,
workstations, servers and networking hardware based on Intel architecture
in key research universities throughout the United States.
NERSC, established in 1974, provides high performance computing
services to DOE's Energy Research programs at national laboratories,
universities and industry. The facility has been located at Berkeley
Lab since May 1996. Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy
national laboratory located in Berkeley, CA. It conducts unclassified
research and is managed by the University of California.