What’s so Super about Supercomputing?

A Blue Gene/P supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory

Cool games, weather forecasts, space simulations, and graphic visualizations all use supercomputing systems or techniques. Behind the supercomputing curtain or under the supercomputing hood are the 10,000 or more scientists, mathematicians, and engineers who attended SC11, the Supercomputing Conference 2011 in Seattle November 12-18.

Dr. Greg Newby, the director of Arctic Region Supercomputing Center in Fairbanks Alaska explains the synergy of this annual event in this Super Computing Conference 2011 video by Frontier Scientists.

The supercomputer has evolved from when Seymour Cray, considered the Father of the Supercomputer, invented the fastest machine of it’s kind back in the 1960’s (Seymour Cray video by Cray Research).  A lot of research and development, time and dollars were spent manufacturing a variety of super systems. Surprisingly, today inspiration to build the super computer processors has been advanced by video game computers and their innovative use of cell processors—for example the Playstation 3. Supercomputers are integrating some of these commodity parts into their systems.  This means faster development for the supercomputers and mainstream use in consumer systems like laptops, tablets, and even in consumer software.

Effectively using multi-core/many-core CPUs and making more efficient use of power, are major challenges for advancement of supercomputing: to make these computers even faster. These new technologies are “proving not quite revolutionary, but very much a force for the technology– requiring the reconsideration of at least the computational science, and in many cases the science, that underlies the technology.” says Newby.

Stay tuned to FrontierScientists.com as we talk to computational scientists who work using supercomputers in this multicore, many core heterogeneous computation system environments.   As Dr. Newby says, “So, it’s exciting but scary at the same time.”

Liz O’Connell 2011

Frontier Scientists: presenting scientific discovery in the Arctic and beyond

Computational Science