Oak Ridge Dedicates Paragon(TM) XP/S 150 MP Supercomputer, Inaugurates Computational Center for Industrial Innovation

Contributed by Ken Kliewer
Director, ORNL Center for Computational Sciences

The Center for Computational Sciences (CCS) at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) held a "Celebration of High Performance Computing" on 21 April 1995 to dedicate the newly installed Intel Paragon(TM) XP/S 150 supercomputer, and inaugurate the Computational Center for Industrial Innovation (CCII).

The Celebration was preceded by a gala reception the evening of 20 April hosted by the Intel Scalable Systems Division (SSD), builder of the Paragon system.

The Intel Paragon XP/S 150 supercomputer has 1024 MP nodes, with each node having two compute processors and one processor for message passing. This machine passed acceptance tests and was made available to CCS users January 20, 1995. It is the fourth in a series of Intel's massively parallel machines installed at ORNL. The other Intel Paragon machines are the XP/S 14 (96 MP nodes), XP/S 35 (512 GP nodes, each with one compute processor and one message passing processor), and the XP/S 5 (66 GP nodes). The processors working together on complex problems can do more than 200 billion calculations per second (200 gigaFLOPS).

These Intel machines are being used primarily for Grand Challenge studies in the areas of fusion power, climate prediction, environmental remediation, materials structure and properties, computational chemistry, and quantum chromodynamics.

The purpose of the CCII, the new DOE national user facility, is to promote and encourage industrial participation in mutually beneficial, computationally- intensive collaborative projects with ORNL scientists and engineers. Examples include analyzing ways to use aluminum in bridges, cars, and beverage cans; improving the efficiency of equipment used in paper production; and designing highly efficient cars to be more crashworthy.

Festivities on the 21st were held in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Central Auditorium and began with CCS Director Ken Kliewer noting that the Celebration resulted from the confluence of ORNL, Intel SSD, the Department of Energy (DOE), and industry. Speaking to the theme "The Intel Paragon XP/S 150 and the CCII: Impact and Expectations" were key representatives of these four sectors:

At the ceremony, Kliewer acknowledged the contributions of the Department of Energy and ORNL Director Alvin Trivelpiece to the development of the center. He said that Trivelpiece's "recognition of the need for high performance computing made possible the emergence of ORNL as one of the premiere computational centers in the world." Trivelpiece noted that DOE national laboratories are distinguished by their user facilities and that CCII, ORNL's newest user facility, will use "one of the latest state-of-the-art computers."

James Decker of DOE's Office of Energy Research noted that CCS and other centers have been established to improve the nation's competitiveness in world commerce. He challenged computer scientists and engineers to build machines capable of petaFLOPS, or a quadrillion calculations per second. He then mentioned two trends: partnerships and strategic alliances are being formed for many megascience projects, and computational science is moving into business and industry.

Ed Masi, the Intel manager responsible for the Intel Paragon machines, said that building parallel computers is "real hard" technically and financially. He noted that the U.S. government has given considerable support in the past to the development of big computing machines, especially in 1983 with the inauguration of the National Science Foundation's four supercomputer centers and in 1989 with the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) initiative.

"Big computing machines, like giant telescopes, are enormously important tools because they lead to new discoveries," Masi said. He challenged the government to continue support for the development of faster computing machines, and he challenged ORNL scientists "to make great use of this outstanding tool" and get results to justify continued government funding.

Ron Tipton of Reynolds Metals Company was optimistic that CCII will help his company find ways to better use aluminum for building cars and bridges. "When you know where people are coming from and they know where you're coming from," he said, "you can get a lot done." It is hoped that CCS and CCII will smooth the way for a quantum leap in cooperation between industrial firms and national laboratories.

These presentations were followed by remarks from a number of perspectives, provided by persons for whom the CCII and the Paragon system represent opportunity, expectations, or both. The speakers were:

The dedication and inauguration ceremonies that followed were a triumph of technology. To dedicate the Paragon XP/S 150, all of the speakers gathered at the front of the auditorium, each with a plaque containing a switch before them. These switches were, in effect, connected in series. The unlit face of the XP/S 150 in the computer room was displayed in the auditorium through a video link. At a signal from Kliewer, all switches were flipped and the Paragon face lit up with the message ON TO TERAFLOPS!! to tumultuous applause.

The CCII inauguration, chaired by Director Thomas Zacharia, was also shown in the auditorium through another video link. The main entrance to the new CCII facility was "closed" with a red ribbon. At a signal from Arthur Bland of the CCS, a robot moved into the doorway and approached the ribbon. Extending its arm, the robot grabbed the ribbon and, rotating the arm, tore the ribbon. Ronald Hultgren, ORNL Site Manager of the DOE Oak Ridge Operation Office, then declared the CCII officially open.

This technical wizardry represented the accomplishments of a number of people, particularly Arthur Bland and Greg Hinkel of the CCS and Phillip Spelt of the ORNL Computer Science and Mathematics Division.

Afternoon Celebration activities included a seminar by Robert Kahn, President, Corporation for National Research Initiatives, and a striking collection of computer demonstrations and posters illustrating work by CCS users and CCII participants.

In addition to the speakers, there were a number of distinguished guests including Walter Ermler of the DOE Office of Scientific Computing, Anne Cook representing Congressman Zach Wamp, and David Dougherty of the University of Vermont.