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Virginia Tech partners with Apple and Mellanox
November 26, 2008

Five years ago, Virginia Tech burst onto the high-performance computing scene using Apple Power Mac G5 computers to build System X, one of the fastest supercomputers of its time. Now Srinidhi Varadarajan and Kirk W. Cameron of Virginia Tech’s Center for High-End Computing Systems (CHECS) and professors of computer science in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering have architected a new supercomputer.

This time, while the new System G supercomputer is twice as fast as its predecessor, their primary goal was to demonstrate that supercomputers can be both fast and a more environmentally green technology.

They will discuss System G at the SuperComputing08 conference at the Austin Convention Center.

Most high-performance computing systems research is conducted at small scales of 32, 64, or at most 128 nodes. Larger machines are typically used in production mode where experimental software is anathema to the end user focused on solving fundamental problems in computational science and engineering. System G was sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and CHECS to address the gap in scale between research and production machines. The purpose of System G is to provide a research platform for the development of high-performance software tools and applications with extreme efficiency at scale.

In preliminary tests, System G was able to obtain transfer rates of over three gigabytes per second with small message latencies close to one microsecond. Given these state-of-the-art communication rates (e.g., data sets consisting of nearly one billion numbers traveling between any two compute nodes in one second, with the first value arriving in one-millionth of a second), supercomputer systems and applications requiring unprecedented levels of data movement can be considered.

But, what makes System G so green? As the world’s largest power-aware cluster, System G will allow CHECS researchers to design and develop algorithms and systems software that achieve high-performance with modest power requirements, and to test such systems at unprecedented scale.

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