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Fall 1997

Court ruling on dumping stops UCAR's procurement of NEC supercomputer

UCAR's acquisition of a NEC SX-4 supercomputer was officially stopped in late August as a result of two federal decisions. The U.S. Department of Commerce assigned a dumping margin of 454% for NEC supercomputers. On the same day, the U.S. Court of International Trade rejected NEC's claim that the Commerce Department had prejudged the case. In light of these decisions and in accordance with the regulations of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget that all procurements be conducted to provide, to the maximum extent possible, open and free competition, NSF informed UCAR that it cannot approve the award for the NEC SX-4.

When the dumping investigation began last September, NCAR's Scientific Computing Division (SCD) began preparing for the possibility that the SX-4 would never be available. Within the past year the division has installed two Cray computers: a C90 and J9se (see UCAR Quarterly, Winter/Spring 1997). SCD also used NSF High Performance Computing and Communications funding to acquire a Hewlett Packard Exemplar X-Class system (called an SPP), a highly parallel computer. SCD staff will use the SPP to evaluate distributed, shared-memory architecture and smooth the transition from the familiar vector supercomputers to massively parallel machines. That process will dominate much of the division's work in fiscal year 1998.

"This [highly parallel] technology looks promising," said Bill Buzbee, director of SCD. In August, staff in the Computational Support Section of SCD achieved computational speeds of over 10 gigaflops (Gflops) using a spectral element atmospheric model running on a 128-processor Hewlett Packard system. Silicon Graphics has reported achieving over 5 Gflops--the speed required to sustain many projects in SCD's Climate Simulation Laboratory--running the NCAR/Pennsylvania State University MM5 climate model on a 64-processor Origin machine.

"The question is not, 'Will we switch to highly parallel, nonvector systems?'" said Buzbee. "The question is, 'When will we switch?' The answer is, 'As soon as possible.'

"Overall, SCD is in good shape and well positioned to move ahead," added Buzbee. He cited SCD's high-quality mass storage system, documentation, and user services as strengths. Beyond them, "Our ensemble of computers gives us computing capability comparable to any other U.S. supercomputer center."

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Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
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Last revised: Tue Apr 4 14:38:45 MDT 2000