PORTLAND, Ore. IBM Corp. said it will endow the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus with the components for one of the most powerful cluster supercomputers in the world.
Next month, IBM will deliver 24 Cell Broadband Engines (BE) for the UMBC Multicore Computing Center. Based on the same Cell processor that powers Sony's Playstation 3, the system will include a dozen IBM BladeCenter QS20s, each with dual 3.2-GHz Cell Broadband Engines. The 24 processors will be connected by Gigabit Ethernet and 20-Gbit/second Infiniband links.
IBM said it will also provide software, support engineers, and endowments to selected graduate students working on parallel processing algorithms.
|IBM's Cell BE has nine processor cores, including eight Synergistic Processor Element (SPE) cores directly connected to the central core, and a 64-bit Power Processor Element|
"IBM's goal in working with UMBC is to go beyond answering general questions about how best to do parallel processing," said Hina Shah, director of the Cell/BE Ecosystem at IBM. "We want to discover the latent capabilities that our Cell Broadband Engine provides for unique new parallel processing applications, as well as for the really big applications that you need a traditional supercomputer to run."
The Maryland center is the second IBM cluster at a university. The first was the Center of Competence for the Cell Broadband Engine Processor at Georgia Institute of Technology.
"We will also allow affiliated partners in government and industry to work on problems they are interested in by giving them time on our cluster when they support our graduate students' research," said Milton Halem, director of the new Center and a former CIO of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Other Maryland researchers will be allowed to "propose problems they would like to see solved on IBM's Cell BE cluster, for which we will allocate both computer time," Halem added.
The Multicore Computing Center will cut its teeth on two existing programming problems that can only be partially solved by supercomputers: hurricane forecasting and global warming analysis.
"We have two specific milestones we hope to reach within a year," said Halem. "First we want to show that our Cell BE cluster can do hurricane forecasting faster and with higher resolution than the supercomputers that do it today. We are already coding the core of that problem and plan to have it ready to go for next year's hurricane season. The other problem we are already started on is analyzing the 30 years of available satellite data with regard to global warming."
It currently takes 10 hours of supercomputer time to analyze just eight and a half minutes of the satellite database. By harnessing all 24 Cell BE processors simultaneously, the Multicore Computing Center hopes to analyze the entire database much faster.
The Cell BE was originally designed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba for entertainment applications like Sony's Playstation 3. It has also been used in a variety of applications like geoscience, medical imaging and aerospace research.