RealTime IT News

Sun, Texas Lab in Supercomputer Two-Step

Sun Microsystems and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) built a supercomputer that uses 3-D graphics to help researchers analyze climate patterns and homeland security across the United States.

Sun and the research center, which is out of the University of Texas at Austin, constructed Maverick over the past year to go live Friday on the National Science Foundation's TeraGrid.

Using Sun's infrastructure and TACC's visualization software, the machine will analyze massive amounts of data to tackle emergency response management and flood modeling in Texas; global weather prediction; earthquake engineering; and homeland security, including biohazard research.

Maverick can also predict patterns for hurricane and storm tracks, helping people plan changes in evacuation routes and shelter locations.

In one scenario, at the Mid-American Geospatial Information Center (MAGIC) at UT Austin's Center for Space Research, research associate Gordon Wells and his team work to convert massive streams of data into information on approaching storms for the public.

"It holds the promise of moving quickly from an academic study into an operational mode -- in which the loss of life and property caused by storm surge and flash floods could be greatly diminished," Wells said in a statement.

The hub of the machine is a Sun Fire E25K server, which is fueled by 64 UltraSPARC IV Chip Multithreading (CMT) processors running the Sun Solaris operating system. The system includes 128 processor cores and 512 gigabytes of shared memory on 16 systems boards.

Terabytes of storage will be accessible through 8 dual gigabit Fibre Channel storage cards. Multiple ports of 10 gigabit Ethernet adapters will provide the networking required for applications.

Maverick is hardly an anomaly. Supercomputers are commonly used in national defense analysis and for predicting weather patterns. Both are vital topics because of current geopolitical unrest and the hurricanes that have racked parts of the Caribbean and the Southern United States.

Sun faces competition in the supercomputing space from Cray , SGI , HP , Dell , Apple and IBM , which staked a claim to the fastest machine Wednesday.

Other massive computing installations have found their way into the commercial world. Sun Wednesday said it is stitching 116 Sun Fire V20 servers together to work in parallel or grid fashion for Equity and Derivatives BNP Paribas bank in Paris.