Nov. 30, 2001

Supercomputing conference pushes the boundaries of global connectivity


In keeping with the theme "Beyond Boundaries," Super Computing 2001 opened new horizons in global connectivity from the mile-high city, Denver, Colo.

Participation by sites in 10 countries around the world, "from Bologna to Beijing and Anchorage to Antarctica," in the annual conference was made possible by the creation of one of the largest heterogeneous computing networks in the world — a network constructed for just one week. The conference brings together 5,000 leaders of the supercomputing and network community from industry, academia and the national labs to demonstrate new technologies and showcase results.

"The access grid, set up for SC Global as part of SC2001, made it possible for people in different locations to be content providers to the conference for the first time," said Dona Crawford, AD for Computation and SC2001 exhibits chair. "This was a new feature that opened the way for greater global participation. The talk of the conference seemed to be ‘the grid’ (Data Grid, TeraGrid, Access Grid, Knowledge Grid). The grid is the next step up from the Web."

A highlight of SC2001 was the announcement of the new supercomputing Top500 list. The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative’s "ASCI White" retained the top place on the list with LLNL’s ASCI Blue holding the number five ranking. Livermore has three other machines in the top 100. Five of the top 10 machines are managed for Department of Energy by the University of California.

"ASCI White is a very large team effort," said Dave Nowak, LLNL ASCI program leader, at the Top500 ceremony. "This is the first truly tri-lab machine benefiting Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia national labs."

"When you’re number one, everybody looks at you closely," Crawford said, noting that there is a great deal of interest in high-end computing in the pharmaceutical, automobile and aircraft industries.

Crawford said the Lab’s relationship with industry is a partnership and that because high-performance computing is a limited commercial market, the labs play an important role in developing new applications. "In this symbiotic relationship, we act as early first users for these new developments," she said. "The goal of ASCI is not only stockpile stewardship, but to further the U.S. computer market."

While there are ongoing collaborations and dialogue between industry, academia and the labs, SC2001 is the opportunity for participants to "show their stuff" as well as exchange ideas. The conference includes an extensive technical program including tutorials, workshops, panel discussions and paper and poster presentations.

"This is also an opportunity for sponsors to come and assess the progress of the programs they are funding," Crawford said. "In a sense, it serves as a program review."

Global Grid Showcase
Much of the attention from media focused on the SC2001 Global Showcase, demonstrating potential applications for the high-power — 15 gigabits of bandwidth — network.

Bill Lennon, Lab engineer, organized a 45-minute presentation and multi-site interactive demonstration using the SC Global Grid Showcase on the Visible Embryo Project. The project is building a 10+ PetaByte Digital Library to support teaching, research and clinical planning in embryology.

Participants from all over the world could "look over the shoulders" of Visible Embryo Team members as they collaborated to describe the project from four Access Grid Sites near their home institutions. The Access Grid sites were in Arlington Va., Argonne, Ill., Denver and Livermore. Audio/video feeds were multicast from each site in addition to a synchronized PowerPoint presentation and a multicast image of the application window being demonstrated.

"This is a powerful new medium for collaborative scientific research," Lennon said.

Jeff Olsen of LLNL’s Electronics Engineering (EE) set up and ran the temporary advanced communications and networking installation in Bldg. 132. George Pavel, also of EE, negotiated the Laboratory’s participation with the other three access grid sites. Brian Bodtker and Paul Atwal of EE assisted Olsen and were trained as backup "directors." Mark Strauch participated as an LLNL virtual seminar attendee.

The project basis is the Carnegie Collection of Human Embryology located at the Human Development Anatomy Center of the National Museum of Health and Medicine within the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Team members with complementary expertise are located at eight institutions throughout the country, which are linked by "Next -Generation Internet" research networks.

The Laboratory had lead responsibility under Jean Shuler for the tri-lab ASCI booth in the Denver Convention Center this year. The booth featured a power wall used for presentations by Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos researchers. Mark Seager, Steve Langer, Jack Reaugh and Valerio Pascucci were among the LLNL researchers who made presentations at the ASCI display wall.

Many other Laboratory employees, too numerous to mention, participated in SC2001, presenting peer reviewed papers, tutorials, research posters and coordinating or joining the Birds of a Feather sessions. The full conference program can be found at http://www.sc2001.org/.
SC2002
will be held next November in Baltimore under the theme "Terabytes to Insights." Details available at http://www.sc-conference.org/SC2002 /.