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Posted: December 28, 2007
Researchers set to do teraflops over UT's most powerful supercomputer yet
(Nanowerk News) The Texas Advanced Computing Center's "Ranger" is ready to start shooting silver bullets.
The computing center, which runs the high-performance research computers at the University of Texas' J.J. Pickle Research Campus, this month started operating its latest supercomputer in "friendly mode," which limits access to the computing cluster to about 15 academic researchers.
'Ranger,' a supercomputer that uses Sun Microsystems hardware and AMD quad-core chips, is set to go into full production at UT's J.J. Pickle Research Campus in North Austin in January.
In January, the big computer will go into full production, linked to scientists using a national research network known as the TeraGrid, which supports more than 4,000 researchers across the country.
Ranger will be quick on the draw. The $59 million supercomputer is expected to run at up to 504 trillion operations per second, making it one of the most powerful in the world.
The machine, based on hardware from Sun Microsystems Inc. and 15,000 processor chips from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., is expected to be put to work on such complex computing problems as earthquake prediction and simulation, climate modeling, advanced weather forecasting, molecular science simulations, nanotechnology and astrophysics.
"Ranger will enable computations science research that has been heretofore impossible, and it will provide opportunities in computer science and technology that are groundbreaking," said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at UT.
Money for the new machine came from the National Science Foundation, which is supporting the acquisition of a series of big computers at universities and research laboratories across the country.
UT won the computer project bid in collaboration with Sun, Arizona State University and the Cornell University Theory Center.
Ranger is the among the first big computers to use AMD's next-generation processor known as Barcelona. The chip, which has four processing cores, is designed to be linked together with other processors to build powerful computers.
AMD began shipping Barcelona chips in September. It interrupted commercial shipments late in the year to fix a minor design flaw. AMD officials say the design of the center's computer makes it unlikely for the flaw to affect its operations, but the chip maker supplied UT with a software fix.
In preparation for Ranger, the computing center has added several staff members to increase its level of support for TeraGrid and other users. The center has added seven workers since September to bring its employment to 64. It expects to add another dozen or so jobs by summer.
Ninety percent of the new computer's resources will be devoted to the TeraGrid projects, 5 percent to other Texas universities and 5 percent to industrial research and development projects.
"TACC has grown into one of the leading supercomputing centers in the world because we've hired talented staff who are committed to working as a team to build something special," computing center director Jay Boisseau said .