504 TFLOPS supercomputer tackling mysteries of the universe

Sun's AMD-based 'Ranger' called the world's second most powerful supercomputer

What is being called the second most powerful supercomputer in the world was unveiled Friday at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ranger, a high-performance computing cluster built by Sun Microsystems, is being formally dedicated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Texas Advanced Computing Center. The supercomputer is running 15,744 quad-core AMD Opteron processors or a total of 62,976 cores. It also has 123 terabytes of memory and 1.7 petabytes of storage.

David Rich, a spokesman for Advanced Micro Devices, said if the biannual Top 500 supercomputer list were released Friday, Ranger would be ranked as the second most powerful supercomputer in the world.

The supercomputer has a peak performance of 504 teraflops, which is equal to 500 trillion floating-point operations per second. According to the latest Top 500 supercomputer list, which was released last November, IBM's BlueGene/L, housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is rated the top supercomputer in the world with a peak speed of 596 teraflops.

"It's really exciting. It's really all about the science that people can do," said Karl Schulz, associate director for high-performance computing at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. "Here you've got a research instrument that you don't have to hold back on what you want to do. This really could change what researchers do across the country. Someone could run 30,000 cores at once, and at the same time, we could run a bunch of 1,000 core jobs simultaneously."

Schultz, who also called Ranger the second most powerful supercomputer in the world, noted that as part of the deal with the NSF, any researcher in the US can apply for time on the new supercomputer. A national committee of academics will review the applications. Those approved by the committee can use Ranger for free. So far, according to Schulz, 100 million hours of computing time have been requested, and 400 researchers are already using it.

"We are still gearing up, but we are starting to get exciting results," said Volker Bromm, an assistant professor in the astronomy department at the University of Texas at Austin. "We need to simulate a huge piece of the universe. ... It's a very demanding problem, and up to this point it could not have been done with any machines we had. With the additional boost of power that Ranger has, we can, for the first time, bridge the gap between the huge scales of the universe down to something as small as the solar system."

Bromm is studying the Cosmic Dark Ages, which is a period of a few hundred million years between the Big Bang and the formation of the first stars and galaxies.

"We can probe most of the history of the universe, but the Cosmic Dark Age period is really the final missing gap of our world view," he added. "We're making predictions by taking the initial conditions from the Big Bang. We feed this [information] into the computer and watch evolution for hundreds of millions of years, and we watch the formation of the first stars and galaxies. Ranger is a time machine."

Administrators got Ranger up and running with a rolling start that began at the end of 2007. The whole machine, which cost the NSF $30 million to build and deploy, has been live since Feb. 4, according to Schultz, who added that the government expects to pay another $29 million to operate it over its lifetime.

The University of Texas system is housing Ranger in a 6,000-square-foot machine room in a brand-new building on the Austin campus. Schulz said they feed 3 megawatts into the room, with 2 megawatts going to the supercomputer and 1 megawatt to the cooling system.

Bjorn Andersson, a spokesman for Sun, said the supercomputer is an installation of the company's Constellation System, which is the company's architecture for high-performance computing clusters. He added that the machine has four cluster blades in 82 racks, and there are close to a total of 4,000 blades. Each blade has four CPUs. Andersson also noted that Ranger has "by far the biggest InfiniBand switch on the market," connecting up to 3,456 nodes.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?