PITTSBURGH — The Terascale Computing System (TCS), the most powerful system
in the world committed to unclassified research, is installed on schedule. Developed
and implemented by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center in collaboration with
Compaq Computer Corporation, with funding from the National Science Foundation,
the TCS provides computational capability to scientists and engineers nationwide.

They will use it in many areas of research that have wide social impact, including
earthquake modeling, storm-scale weather forecasting, global climate change, and
protein genomics, modeling that’s integral to the development of new drug therapies.

A joint project of Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and
Westinghouse Electric Company, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has
deployed the TCS to fill a gap in U.S. basic research capability highlighted in a 1999
presidential report. Terascale means computational power beyond a “teraflop” — a
trillion calculations per second. With peak capability of six teraflops, the new system is
now by far the most powerful available as an open resource for researchers attacking
a wide range of problems.

“The TCS system at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center continues a history of National
Science Foundation support for high-performance computing,” said Robert Borchers,
director of NSF’s Division of Advanced Computational Infrastructure and Research.
“Through the NSF’s Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI)
program, this system will increase long-term, fundamental research across all
science and engineering disciplines.”

“In scale alone, the TCS pushes beyond where open-resource supercomputing
technology has been before or would have gone without the NSF PACI program,” said
PSC scientific directors Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies in a joint statement.

“Compaq committed themselves to the success of the TCS and worked side-by-side
with us to make it available on schedule. With storage capacity that’s 100,000 times
that of most PCs and with 10 million times the communications capability, this system
brings significant new research capability to bear on many important problems. While
the immediate, direct beneficiaries will be academic scientists, the benefits will flow to
the country as a whole, in practical ways we can’t forecast.”

“Compaq is proud to join with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and the National
Science Foundation in delivering TCS,” said Bill Blake, Compaq’s Vice President of
High Performance Technical Computing. “And we’re excited that Compaq’s
AlphaServer SC supercomputing architecture will make such a significant contribution
in opening new frontiers in scientific computing.”

The TCS represents an unprecedented synthesis of “off-the-shelf” components
integrated with an advanced interconnect — from Quadrics Supercomputers World —
and other technologies to provide a very large-scale system for scientific computing. It
comprises 3,000 Compaq Alpha EV68 microprocessors, housed in 750
four-processor AlphaServer systems running Tru64 UNIX. The latest evolution of the
widely used Alpha microchip technology, the EV68 has peak floating-point capability of
two gigaflops (two billion calculations per second).

Along with six teraflops of processing power, the TCS features 3.0 terabytes of
memory, high-bandwidth, low-latency interconnections and remarkable capabilities
for large-scale data handling, including the ability to write the entire memory to disk in
under 40 seconds. This extremely short system-write time, developed through PSC
systems and software engineering, is critical to efficient checkpointing, needed to
preserve research data in the event of component failure.

Preparation for the TCS began in October 2000 with installation of a 256-processor
prototype system. In August 2001, the first of the new AlphaServer systems arrived at
the PSC computer room at Westinghouse Energy Center in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
System components came in multiple deliveries from Compaq facilities in Texas and

An on-site team of Compaq, PSC and Westinghouse engineers and technicians —
supported by expert teams at Compaq locations in the United States, Bristol, England
and Galway, Ireland — worked aggressively to meet the Oct. 1 installation date.

“PSC’s success in deploying this unprecedented, very large-scale system right on
time is a fine achievement,” said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon
University. “This is another important chapter in the center’s outstanding record of
providing the nation’s scientists with the most advanced computational tools. This
world-class computing system reflects Pittsburgh’s international leadership in
technology development and is a key component of our region’s technology future.”

“This computing system is an important advance in assuring the continuation of our
nation’s leadership in basic research,” said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark
A. Nordenberg. “There is growing national and international recognition that university
research is at the heart of most commercial innovation and much of our recent
economic prosperity. And it is significant for our region that Western Pennsylvania is
the home of this great national resource — attesting to the strength of our institutions.
When great research universities such as Pitt and CMU partner with industry — in this
case Westinghouse and Compaq — and the federal government, we are poised to
achieve the next great breakthroughs of this new century.”

“PSC is to be congratulated on bringing this powerful new technology into being,” said
Charlie Pryor, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company. “Westinghouse
is proud to add its internationally recognized expertise in management excellence and
technology leadership to the team. Once again, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing
Center has demonstrated its leadership in high-performance computing.”

The TCS installation marks the first operation of AlphaServer SC, the system software
that ties AlphaServer systems together, on this scale and the first large-scale,
multi-level Quadrics switch structure that supports thousands of processors while
achieving sustained operation across the system. Standard benchmark software has
measured system performance over three teraflops.

The TCS will next go through a period of “friendly user” testing, and by early 2002 it will
become available to researchers nationwide through the peer-review process of the
NSF PACI program.

PSC and Compaq collaborated on numerous machine enhancements to improve the
performance of the TCS, changes that range from the disk controller and file system to
wiring optimizations. By careful site planning and redesign of the AlphaServer
configurations, PSC engineers reduced the distance between processors, thereby
also reducing cabling and minimizing network latency.

Total TCS floor space is roughly that of a basketball court. It uses 14 miles of
high-bandwidth interconnect cable to maintain communication among its 3,000
processors. Another seven miles of serial, copper cable and a mile of fiber-optic cable
provide for data handling.

The TCS requires 664 kilowatts of power, enough to power 500 homes. It produces
heat equivalent to burning 169 pounds of coal an hour, much of which is used in
heating the Westinghouse Energy Center. To cool the computer room, more than 600
feet of eight-inch cooling pipe, weighing 12 tons, circulate up to 900 gallons of water
per minute, and twelve 30-ton air-handling units provide cooling capacity equivalent to
375 room air conditioners.


For background information, see http://www.psc.edu/publicinfo/terascale/bigiron.html

Compaq and AlphaServer are trademarks of Compaq Information Technologies
Group, L.P. The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center was established in 1986 and is
supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and
private industry.


Michael Schneider, schneider@psc.edu

Sean Fulton, sfulton@psc.edu

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center