European Supercomputer installed at CERN

A new scaleable parallel computer based on European High Performance Computing (HPC) technology has been installed in the CERN1 computing centre. The initiative to support the development of this new style computer came from the European Union's (EU) Esprit Programme (European Strategic Programme for Research and Development in Information Technology). CERN is lead partner and co-ordinator of this project, called GPMIMD2 (General Purpose Multiple Instructions Multiple Data II). This is the first time that CERN is the prime co-ordinating partner of a multimillion ECU Esprit project and illustrates the stronger links which are developing between the EU and CERN.

It is also the first time in thirty years in which the most powerful single system computer in the CERN computer centre has been designed in Europe, which shows that European technology can compete with the best from the US and Japan.

Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) is a new direction in Supercomputing technology, in which many (up to over 1000) processing elements, often of the same technology as personal work-stations, are tightly coupled together to provide computing speeds and capabilities equal and even superior to traditional larger mainframe Supercomputers. The start-up of this newcomputer at CERN is a step forward in the development of High Performance Computing culture and know-how in the European scientific environment and will contribute to build up user confidence in the emerging and potentially strategic European MPP computing market.

The parallel computer installed at CERN as part of the project, is a 32 node CS-2 produced by the British company Meiko Limited based in Bristol in collaboration with two other leading European Supercomputer suppliers Parsys (UK) and Telmat (F). This is so far the largest machine of this kind installed in Europe. It uses RISC Supersparc Technology coupled to a high performance (50 Megabytes/second) low latency (<10 microsecond) interconnect fabric developed by Meiko as part of other Esprit projects.

The computer is used at CERN for advanced High Energy Physics applications. Its potential has already been revealed by running physics simulation events for the NA48 experiment. This high precision experiment, which is expected to start taking data at the end of 1995, will probe the continuing mystery of Nature's subtle disregard for invariance, under a combined particle-antiparticle switch and mirror reflection. In the past, many days of processing were needed to generate the same statistics, which are now produced in "quasi real-time". The CS-2 is already producing excellent results: 100,000 physics events per hour/processor are simulated on average, fulfilling the original goal of producing 16 million events per night.

As part of the same EU Supercomputing initiative a second Massively Parallel Processing computer equipped with powerful vector units is going to be installed at CERFACS (Centre Européen de Recherche et Formation Avancée en Calcul Scientifique) in the South of France. This computer will be used to process the enormous quantities of data which have to be analysed for accurate meteorological and climate predictions.

Footnote(s)

1. CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Israel, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Yugoslavia (status suspended after UN embargo, June 1992), the European Commission and Unesco have observer status.

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