New Hardware for Cluster Computing

Computer science professors Simha Sethumadhavan (left), Angelos Keromytis, and Salvatore J. Stolfo were awarded a $650,000 equipment grant from the Air Force Office for Scientific Research (AFOSR) that will enable advanced research. "The cluster will help process large amounts of data needed by some research projects in our department," says Sethumadhavan. The cluster, called Secure Cyber Operations and Parallelization Studies cluster (SCOPS), will be used to train research students in parallel programming, secure computer deployment, and virtual machines."
The addition of this hardware makes possible "cloud computing," where various faculty members can use the machines to run research work during idle cycles while still being able to use the equipment for instruction. The cluster allows different groups to access the machines simultaneously while maintaining privacy for each individual user.
One project the new hardware makes possible is parallelizing legacy code programs. "In many cases, the hardware comes before the software," explains Sethumadhavan. "Now, we have parallel hardware but the old software is still largely sequential. With this new capability, we hope to develop a parallelization system for these legacy code programs, such as MS Word."
Once programs are parallelized, computer performance and energy efficiency will improve significantly. "Performance improvements come from doing operations quickly and from doing multiple operations in parallel. From about 1990 to 2005, we could get higher performance by cranking up the clock frequency," says Sethumadhavan, "but now we have hit the limit because the power consumption is through the roof and clock frequency cannot be increased easily. Future increases in performance must therefore come from parallelism. This new equipment will enable us to inexpensively alter sequential software to work in parallel."
When fully operational, the SCOPS cluster will have peak throughput of nearly 1.2 Teraflops, 1.6TB of RAM, 52 TB of disk storage, and state-of-the-art Cisco 1002 ASR routers.
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