Stampede supercomputer has already powered 583 science projects, director of TACC says


Shelby Tauber

Director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) Jay Boisseau talks about UT’s new Stampede Supercomputer at the AT&T Center on Tuesday evening. The supercomputer has already powered many different science projects and is the most powerful model TACC has created thus far.

Miles Hutson

UT’s new Stampede supercomputer, which has been operational since January, is capable of doing previously impossible science and making predictions that can save money and lives, according to Jay Boisseau, director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

The supercomputer, which has already powered 583 different science projects, is twenty times more powerful than Ranger, TACC’s previous model, and can perform 10 quadrillion operations in a second. Its construction and maintenance are funded by a National Science Foundation grant. Boisseau said while the technical capabilities of the computer are exciting, the projects that are enabled by them are the most exciting part of the new system.

Boisseau said Stampede renders hurricane forecasts with greater precision than older systems because it can simulate more small interacting units in a storm system in the same amount of time. This allows forecasters to narrow down the area where the hurricane is predicted to make landfall and help evacuation efforts.

“Hurricanes are a great elevator pitch for supercomputing,” Boisseau said.

It is also easier to adapt programs to Stampede than older systems.

“In previous generations of supercomputers, when you made that leap between academic research at a smaller scale to a larger scale, you had to relearn the actual way you talked to and interacted with the computer,” Greg Khairallah, an Intel business development manager, said. “With Stampede … it allows you to take the same programming constructs … and scale that.”

Khairallah said he found this essential to allowing more researchers to take advantage of Stampede’s power to process or simulate large amounts of data.

Rick Herrmann, a U.S. public sector field initiatives manager for Intel, said this is enabled by better hardware, including the Intel Xeon Phi processors that power the system.

Boisseau said having a supercomputer on campus helps UT as a research univeristy. Although 90 percent of the system’s processing time is allocated by the National Science Foundation, UT is allowed to decide how to use the other 10 percent of its time. 

Boisseau said the best part of the system is the National Science Foundation-paid staff.

“UT doesn’t pay for any of the people, but it gets their expertise,” Boisseau said.

Boisseau said since acquiring the grant for the system, other universities have been contacting him for advice.

“If you want to be the best research university in the country, you better have the best computational tools,” Boisseau said.

Published on March 6, 2013 as "Supercomputer expands frontiers".