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|Photo: Jacque Brund.
MJ Soileau, vice president for Research and Commercialization, cuts the ribbon for the new high-performance computer funded by Army grants.
A new high-performance computer obtained through two Army grants totaling $2.6 million will allow the University of Central Florida to conduct realistic training scenarios with thousands of people training in the same virtual world and to conduct cutting-edge research in the physical and biological sciences.
Hundreds of times as powerful as a modern personal computer, the new IBM System Cluster 1350 housed at UCF's Institute for Simulation and Training (IST) will help to satisfy the Army's need for realistic large-scale simulations that can operate in real time. The new cluster was unveiled on Tuesday.
IST is working with virtual world developer Forterra Systems Inc. and other local industry partners to study hosting simulation applications on this type of computer for governmental and commercial purposes. According to Forterra's Federal Systems division general manager Mike Macedonia, studies conducted through the grants will help Forterra learn how its realistic OLIVE™ (On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment) 3D Internet platform can take advantage of a high-performance computing system's processing power.
"The Army is an excellent example of an organization whose members, although geographically dispersed, need to continually collaborate and train," Macedonia said.
Soldiers could participate in the training activities from anywhere in the world. While simulation scenarios on standard computers may be able to support some large-scale scenarios, they cannot accommodate them in real time with so many participants at once.
"The commercial market also is looking for highly scalable 3D collaboration and training applications, including building distributed networked communities," Macedonia said, "so the published results will be valuable outside the Army, too."
IST director Randall Shumaker also sees uses for the enhanced capabilities beyond the Army's requirements. Many high-performance computers now crunch numbers sequentially, which means users input a problem and have to come back later for the results, he said.
"We plan to learn better ways to perform numerous operations at the same time, taking advantage of the system's many parallel processors to return results that operators can see and interact with directly," Shumaker said. "Improving our ability to interact with large-scale Army simulations will help open new doors to getting real-time results from high-performance systems."
"Once the sole province of scientists, supercomputers increasingly serve as the foundation of applications in the business and consumer realms," said David Jursik, vice president, deep computing, IBM. Jursik noted that UCF's use of the IBM system in creating innovative virtual world environments will help advance one of the most promising avenues of high-performance computing.
In practical terms, the computer system can store more than 40,000 music CDs, or the text equivalent of 500,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In one second, the computer can do the numerical calculations for more than a billion income tax returns.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson helped UCF secure the first $1 million of the grant, applied toward initial hardware, software and research costs; U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown joined Nelson to help secure the remaining $1.6 million. UCF chose IBM to design the system and train researchers to use it.
The initial installation features a 192-processor IBM System Cluster 1350 with 20 terabytes (20,000 billion bytes) of storage. The system delivers nearly two TeraFLOPS (2,000 billion floating point operations per second) of processing performance.
The second increment of hardware for this system, anticipated in late 2008, is expected to more than triple its capacity, allowing researchers to develop many more new applications.
IST will operate the new system as a university, community and statewide resource. UCF faculty from the departments of Mathematics, Physics, and Civil and Environmental Engineering, along with the NanoScience Technology Center, will develop and run science-oriented simulations. IST researchers also will work on the continued development of the high-performance computing hardware and software to improve the system and enhance training scenarios for Army applications.
About University of Central Florida
UCF Stands For Opportunity:The University of Central Florida is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the 6th largest in the nation with more than 48,000 students. UCF's first classes were offered in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research environments that power the region's economic development. UCF's culture of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy.
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Institute for Simulation and Training
Forterra Systems Inc.
IBM North America
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