DoD Supercomputers: Speeding Along the Digital Highway
Four teams get up to $100 million in DARPA funding to develop superfast supercomputers. (Aug 6/10)
The US Department of Defense (DoD) High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) was set up in 1992 to modernize DoD’s supercomputing capabilities. The HPCMP was assembled out of a collection of small high performance computing departments run by the services, each with supercomputing capabilities independent of the others.
The HPCMP brings these capabilities together. The program provides supercomputer services, high-speed network communications, and computational science expertise that enables the DoD labs to develop new weapons systems, prepare US aircraft for overseas deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and assist long-term weather predictions to plan humanitarian and military operations throughout the world…
The program operates 6 DoD supercomputing resource centers (DSRCs) located at:
- US Air Force Research Lab, Wright Patterson AFB, OH;
- Arctic Region Supercomputing Center in Fairbanks, AK;
- US Army Research Lab, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD;
- US Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, MS;
- Navy DoD Supercomputing Resource Center, Stennis Space Center, MS; and
- Maui High Performance Computer Center in Kihei, Maui, HI.
Each center has large-scale supercomputers, high-speed networking, multi-petabyte archival mass storage systems, and customer support services. Customer service and data analysis centers offer services to the DoD user community.
Some of the supercomputer projects [pdf] that the DSRCs have worked on include:
- 3-D Bomb Effects Simulations for Obstacle Clearance: This project provides a system capable of simultaneously breaching obstacles and clearing mines during an amphibious assault. The goal is to study, identify, and verify the damage mechanisms of obstacles, both on land and in water, subjected to multiple bomb detonations. The rapid creation of transit lanes through shoreline defenses is necessary to enable landing craft to deposit troops and equipment directly onto and beyond the beaches.
- CFD for Aircraft-Store Compatibility and Weapons Integration: The goal of this project is to perform engineering analysis, develop flight test profiles, and direct real-time flight tests in support of the aircraft and store certification process. By supplementing inexpensive lower order methods and costly, sub-scale testing, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has been used to reduce the certification costs, increase flight test safety margins, and develop more confidence in the numerical predictions that lead to the determination of flight test requirements.
- Blast Protection in Urban Terrain: An anti-terrorism (AT) lanner software tool was developed to rapidly evaluate the safety of structures. This tool is a fast and accurate method of predicting loads on a structure when a terrorist weapon is detonated between groups of structures (urban terrain). Improved methods of predicting response of conventional structures and developing retrofits for these structures will result from these predictions. This research will provide the DoD community with an improved methodology for evaluating the safety of US forces from terrorist attack and for designing retrofits to improve safety.
Contracts and Key Events
Aug 6/10: DARPA selected 4 teams to develop GPU technologies required to build the new class of exascale supercomputers that will be 1,000-times more powerful than today’s fastest DoD supercomputers. The up to $100 million in funding is provided under the Ubiquitous High Performance Computing program. The 4 teams are led by Intel, NVIDIA, MIT, and Sandia National Labs. The NVIDIA-led team includes Cray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and 6 US universities.
Feb 24/10: Cray in Seattle, WA announces that it won a $45 million contract to supply 3 supercomputers to HPCMP DSRCs located at AFRL, ARSC, and ERDC. The Cray supercomputers will be used to support basic and applied research, and product development and evaluation. These systems will assist the US military through the development of new materials, fuels, armor and weapons systems.
The 3 Cray supercomputers included in the 2010 DoD HPCMP procurement are expected to be delivered in the second half of this year. With this award, Cray will have supercomputing systems at 5 of the 6 DSRCs.
Aug 10/09: High Performance Technologies (HPTi) in Reston, VA announces that it received a contract, worth up to $147 million over 10 years, to provide support to the DoD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Office (HPCMO) under the User Productivity Enhancement, Technology Transfer and Training (PETTT) program.
HPTi will manage a group of 21 subcontractors from academia and the private sector to produce computer science and engineering solutions for US troops. The team includes: Arizona State University, Brown Deer Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, Florida State University, George Mason University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Invertix, Ohio State University, ParaTools, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, SAIC, San Diego Supercomputer Center, SERDI, Stanford University, Szanca Solutions, Texas Advanced Computing Center, University of Arizona, University of Illinois, University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas.
The PETTT contract’s objectives include computer collaboration, high performance computing (HPC) tool development, and exploration of research areas the DoD believes will achieve technological advantages for US soldiers.
- DoD – High Performance Computing Modernization Program site
- DID (Feb 23/06) – US Army Purchases 5 Linux Supercomputers for TI-06 Upgrades
- DID (Oct 31/05) – Supercomputing: Livermore Puttin’ On Its New Purple and Blue Gene
- DID (April 27/05) – DoD Buys 2,048 Processor Linux Supercomputer for Weapons Design
- CHIPS (Spring 2003) – The High Performance Computing Modernization Program [pdf]