By Jon Bashor, email@example.com
November 17, 1998
Andrew Canning, a member of NERSC's Scientific Computing Group,
and collaborating scientists at Oak Ridge National Lab, Pittsburgh
Supercomputing Center and University of Bristol (UK) were named
winners of the 1998 Gordon Bell Prize for the best achievement in
The award was announced last Thursday near the end of SC98,
an annual conference on high-performance computing and networking.
The group's modeling of metallic magnet atoms was run on progressively
more powerful Cray T3E supercomputers, starting with NERSC's 512-processor
machine, and won the prize with a top performance of 657 Gigaflops
(657 billion calculations per second). However, the group later
gained access to a machine on Cray's manufacturing center floor
and achieved 1.02 Teraflops (trillions of calculations per second).
Funded as one of the U.S. Department of Energy's Grand Challenges,
the group developed the computer code to provide a better microscopic
understanding of metallic magnetism, which has applications in fields
ranging from computer data storage to power generation and utilization.
According to NERSC Division Director Horst Simon, NERSC’s strong
showing in the awards, the conference technical program and on the
exhibition floor clearly demonstrates that Berkeley Lab is taking
a lead role in unclassified high-performance computing in the Department
of Energy and in the nation.
"As the Department of Energy’s national facility for computational
science, we see this achievement by the Grand Challenge team as
a major breakthrough in high-performance computing," said Simon.
"Unlike other recently published records, this is a real application
running on an operational production machine and delivering real
scientific results. NERSC is proud to have been a partner in this
Also during the SC98 awards ceremony, NERSC's Phil Colella
was presented with the 1998 Sidney Fernbach award for "an outstanding
contribution in the application of high performance computers using
innovative approaches." Finally, the Gordon Bell Prize for best
price/performance on a computer went to a team which includes Greg
Kilcup, a physics researcher at Ohio State University who has been
a visiting researcher at the Lab and is a long-time user of NERSC.
Although parallel supercomputers are the world's fastest computers
capable of performing hundreds of billions of calculations
per second realizing their potential often requires writing
complex computer codes as well as reformulating the scientific approach
to problems so that the codes scale up efficiently on these types
In developing this magnetism modeling code for parallel computers,
the researchers were forced to rethink their formulation of the
basic physical phenomena. The code was originally developed with
Intel Paragon machines at ORNL's Center for Computational Science
(CCS) in mind and has exhibited linear scale up to 1024-processors
on an Intel XPS-150.
"One of the goals of this project is to address critical
materials problems on the microstructural scale to better understand
the properties of real materials. A major focus of our research
is to establish the relationship between technical magnetic properties
and microstructure based on fundamental physical principles,"
said Malcolm Stocks, a scientist in Oak Ridge's Metals and Ceramics
Division and leader of the project. "The capability to design
magnetic materials with specific and well-defined properties is
an essential component of the nation's technological future."
In May and June of this year, the research team ran successively
larger calculations on a series of bigger and more powerful Cray
supercomputers. After the simulation code attained a speed of 276
Gflops on the Cray T3E-900 512-processor supercomputer at NERSC,
the group arranged for use of an even faster T3E-1200 at Cray Research
Inc. and achieved 329 Gflops. They were then given dedicated time
on a T3E-600 1024-processor machine at the NASA Goddard Space Flight
Center which allowed them to perform crucial code development work
and testing before the final run at 657 Gflops on a T3E-1200 1024-processor
machine at a U.S. government site.
"These increases in the performance levels demonstrate
both the power and the capabilities of parallel computers
a code can be scaled up so that it not only runs faster but allows
us to study larger systems and new phenomena that cannot be studied
on smaller machines," said Andrew Canning, a physicist in NERSC's
Scientific Computing Group who worked with the Oak Ridge team on
The Gordon Bell Award work was part of a larger Department
of Energy Grand Challenge Project on Materials, Methods, Microstructure
and Magnetism between ORNL, Ames Laboratory (Iowa), Brookhaven National
Laboratory, NERSC and the Center for Computational Science and the
Computer Science and Mathematics Divisions at ORNL.
In addition to Canning and Stocks, the team included Balazs
Ujfalussy, Xindong Wang, Xiaoguang Zhang, Donald M. C. Nicholson,
and William A. Shelton, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Yang Wang,
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center; and B. L. Gyorffy, H. H. Wills
Physics Laboratory, UK.