Purdue Supercomputing '08 presence mixes projects to enable scientific productivity, education and fun

December 2, 2008

From an easy way to do cutting-edge science in a Web-based environment today to getting ready to take advantage of tomorrow’s next-generation high performance computers, presentations planned by Purdue researchers at the SuperComputing ’08 conference will cover a variety of topics in the field.

The presentations are part of the activity in Purdue’s booth at SC08, where visitors also will get a chance to build and manage their own supercomputer, virtually anyway. The SC Conference is the premier international gathering for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis.

The booth at the world’s largest high performance computing conference is designed to promote Purdue, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), the University’s central information technology organization, and the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing, ITaP’s research and discovery arm. The conference takes place Nov. 15-21 in Austin, Texas.

The theme of the Purdue booth this year is: “No cycle left behind, no byte left unexplored.” That relates to the creative ways ITaP is finding to improve scientific productivity, said John Campbell, associate vice president for information technology, who heads the Rosen Center. For example, Purdue’s more than 20,000-processor strong Condor pool, a high-throughput distributed computing system that makes use of otherwise idle machines in offices, labs and elsewhere for research purposes, a project set to be highlighted in a colorful animated short film at the conference.

“We will be demonstrating a series of projects that we have implemented or expanded over the past year,” Campbell said.

Among other things, Purdue’s booth also will provide information to potential Purdue students and to job seekers about University academic programs and positions with ITaP and the Rosen Center.

The booth could attract some computer game fans as well. Purdue-designed Rack-A-Node is a “tower-defense” strategy game that has players build and operate a simulated supercomputer to manage waves of science jobs in fields ranging from climate-modeling and physics to chemistry and pharmacy, said Kyle Bowen, manager of ITaP’s informatics team, which created the game.

SC08 visitors will be able to give a console version of Rack-A-Node, which also is available on the Web, a spin at Purdue’s booth. Players start with a small computer and have to manage a series of jobs successfully to earn funding to buy an even larger machine and advance to subsequent levels of the game.

Purdue’s booth will feature two presentations on the HUBzero technology developed at the University, which makes it easy for researchers to create “electronic virtual organizations” for connecting with colleagues throughout the world and sharing ideas, computational resources and data. The technology also makes it possible to deliver in integrated fashion simulation tools, tutorials and workshops, podcasts and other resources via the Web, all in an manner so elegant, you have to see it to believe it, said Michael McLennan, senior research scientist and hub technology architect at Purdue and the Rosen Center.

Purdue has become a recognized leader in such “cyberinfrastructure” with the development of HUBzero, which powers nanoHUB.org and many other Web-based “hubs” for scientific collaboration.

At SC08, McLennan will give presentations on the HUBzero platform while Purdue electrical and computer engineering Professor Gerhard Klimeck will talk about nanoHUB, an international resource for nanotechnology theory, simulation and education that now has tens of thousands of users. NanoHUB is built on HUBzero.

Purdue presentations also will focus on taking advantage of the myriad processors available in high performance computing systems today and set to burgeon with the advent of petascale computers capable of more than a thousand trillion calculations per second.

  • Purdue Professor Alex Pothen, head of Purdue’s Computing Research Institute, will outline recent results from the Combinatorial Scientific Computing & Petascale Simulations (CSCAPES) Institute.

  • Faisal Saied, a senior research scientist at the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing and the Computing Research Institute, will discuss work toward petascale simulation at the Purdue Center for Prediction of Reliability, Integrity and Survivability of Microsystems (PRISM).

  • Rudolf Eigenmann, professor of electrical and computer engineering and technical director of the Computing Research Institute, will cover methods for compiling programs to take advantage of today’s nearly ubiquitous multiprocessor systems (even laptops) and other high performance computing platforms.

  • Other planned presentations will cover topics such as moving high-resolution scientific visualizations quickly over long-distance networks; using the Condor system to tap and combine unused compute cycles on server, office and lab machines for high-throughput high performance computing; accelerating applications with field programmable gate arrays, essentially chips that can be programmed to do specific tasks really well; and more.

    More information:

    • www.rcac.purdue.edu/news/detail.cfm?NewsID=324
    • www.rcac.purdue.edu/sc08
    • www.rcac.purdue.edu/rackanode

    Writer: Greg Kline, (765) 494-8167, gkline@purdue.edu

Originally posted: December 2, 2008