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Cluster Computing

Cluster Computing plays an ever-increasing role in the field of scientific high-performance computing. JSC aspires to cover a significant part of the users' demands with such systems. A first step is represented by NICole, an Opteron based system owned by the NIC research group "Computational Biology and Biophysics". It was extended by 8 nodes and a front-end system and is in production mode since October 2005. The next step will be a strategic project together with IBM, PathScale and ParTec. A system based on IBM's PowerPC blades and PathScale's high-performance interconnect InfiniPath - managed by the cluster middle-ware ParaStation - shall go into early operation-mode midyear 2006.

The Cluster middleware ParaStation - already deployed to NICole - was extended and maintained within the ParaStation Consortium. Within the framework of this consortium - founded by FZJ, ParTec and the Universities of Karlsruhe and Wuppertal - ParTec agreed to release ParaStation to open source and free use within academia. The software's task within a cluster is similar to the task of an operating system on a single machine, i.e. management of processes and resources, inter-process communication, etc. FZJ coordinates the on-going development of the core software and supports universities and other research facilities during installation and operation of ParaStation.

In cooperation with the University of Wuppertal a new technology for building multi-stage crossbars out of mid-size Gigabit Ethernet switches was developed. A joint patent together with ParTec is pending (EP 05 012 567.3). The cooperating switches feature bi-sectional bandwidth for port-numbers way beyond the capabilities of a single switch. Using the 48-port switches of Wuppertal's ALiCEnext cluster, a 512-port crossbar was built. It provides full bi-sectional bandwidth in production mode since December 2005. Combined with ParaStation, an accumulated bandwidth of more than 56 GigaByte/s at a maximum latency of 9 µs was reached.