NTB: What will that do?
Thigpen: This will provide the analysts with a way of looking at this huge amount of data that’s generated. This will actually have 245-million pixels; it’s an 8 by 16 LCD tiled panel display. It’s a fairly significant computer system all on its own. It will have 1,024 Opteron cores, which is an AMD Quad-Core processor. It will have 128 graphic processing units (GPUs) that are NVIDIA 8800 GPX cards, and it will have about 74 teraflops of peak processing and 350 terabytes of storage. We’re in the process of building that right now, and that will be directly connected to our high-end computers through InfiniBand. It allows for visualization to be embedded into the simulations that are running, so you get higher temporal resolution on it, and it just works a lot quicker and provides the analyst with a lot better visualization of the data. It can also be piped out to any of the other centers as the visualization is occurring.
NTB: Looking ahead, what do you see as being some of the biggest technological challenges facing NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division in the future?
Thigpen: Being able to harness the multiple cores that are going to be in these chips. What the vendors are doing is getting more and more cores per chip. The challenge is really going to be extracting the full capability of those cores.
To download this interview as a podcast, click here