"The life cycle of super computers is just five years. After five years its power is decreased and maintenance is increased. That's why we replace every five years," explained Dr. Kim Joong-kwon, Director of the Supercomputing Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI).
Just two weeks after the 9th High Performance Computing International Conference and Exhibition, or HPC Asia 2007, KISTI received a new supercomputer. Two of them, in fact. As Dr. Kim explained: "We have two systems. One is SMP, or symmetric multi-processor, and the other is MMP, or massive multi-processor. For the SMP we will have an IBM computer, the IBM Power5 chip. And for the MMP we will have a Sun." The new system will be able to perform at 250 teraFLOPS. FLOPS is a supercomputing acronym that stands for FLoating point Operations Per Second, and is the standard measure of super computing power. A teraflop is one trillion floating point operations per second. According to Wikipedia, the fastest computer in the world as of June 2007 was the IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer, measuring a peak of 280.6 teraFLOPS. A simple desk calculator could perform about 10 FLOPS.
This upgrade is necessary for KISTI to stay competitive in the world supercomputing list. Top500.org keeps a list of the 500 best supercomputers in the world, and is updated twice a year. "Every June and November, two times a year, we announce the top 500 list from 1 to 500. The first is at the international supercomputing conference in Europe, and the other is at the supercomputing conference in the USA," Dr. Kim explained. Before the upgrade, the system at KISTI performed only 2.9 teraFLOPS. But this upgrade will put the organization back into the top of the list, among the top 5 supercomputers in the world.
With great FLOPS comes great responsibility, and KISTI does not shirk its duties in that regard. They recently represented Korea at the HPC Asia 2007 held this year in the Lotte Hotel, Seoul. HPC Asia is the largest supercomputing conference in all of Asia, and is held in a different location each year. Usually representatives from organizations in Japan, China, Korea, and Southeast Asian countries present results and new developments for new systems. "We invited people such as Andy Bechtolsheim from Sun Microsystems," said Dr. Kim, "He is the co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Also we had Hans Moyer, he is the founder of the top 500 project. We invited them and shared ideas together."
The most important priority for KISTI at the conference was setting up new working relationships based on the new hardware they would soon receive. The Texas Advanced Computing Center and the Tokyo Institute of Technology also have the same system. So KISTI discussed collaboration ideas with those institutions and made some informal agreements for skills and technical support. The organization also discussed collaboration with Horst Simon in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Director Kim commented on this by saying: "We are expecting an MOU next February."
KISTI is working to add to an already impressive list of collaborators. They are currently involved with the National Center of Supercomputing Applications in the US, and also work with the EGEE, or the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project. EGEE is funded by the European Commission and aims to build on recent advances in grid technology and develop a service grid infrastructure which is available to scientists 24 hours a day. There are also 16 domestic supercomputing centers that KISTI works with closely.
Most notable among them are Seoul National University and the Korean Meterological Administration. With this new level of supercomputing power, KISTI will be able to help any number of other organizations like never before. Weather prediction might become an exact science on the peninsula soon.
Scientists and technicians from all over the country use KISTI's computing resources to help with their research and development. With an expansion of 100 times the computing power at KISTI, the future of Korea's technological industries looks limitless indeed.