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National Science Foundation funds Computer Systems Research Center at the New Mexico Consortium in Los Alamos

PRObE is partnership between Lab, academia

The National Science Foundation awarded $10 million to the New Mexico Consortium (NMC), the Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Utah, and the University of New Mexico, to build and operate the Parallel Reconfigurable Observational Environment (PRObE), a computer systems research center.

This innovative concept utilizes decommisioned supercomputing systems from the Laboratory to provide a very large scale systems software research capability. The center will allow systems software researchers to access 1,000 node clusters and own the entire resource down to and including the hardware.

“About three years ago, we began to work on a way to re-utilize ‘open/unclassified’ decommissioned supercomputers,” said Gary Grider of High Performance Computing (HPC) Division. “We noticed that when new supercomputers are installed, there is a mad rush to get them into production with a focus on getting science applications to run quickly and well.”

In the early phase of commissioning a new supercomputer a significant amount of work goes into software development. The people that develop "systems" level functions get a chance to try new things out for a relatively short period of time while new large computers are brought on-line. “This presents an issue, as there is no large scale resource for these ‘systems’ level people to utilize for long periods of time to develop new concepts and functions," said Grider.

Reusing decommissioned supercomputers

Los Alamos decommissions large supercomputers every few years, some of which are open/unclassified resources. To make these systems available for software research, funding is needed to house, power, air condition, and provide systems support people. “NSF seemed like the natural government sponsor for such a concept,” Grider said. “Also, to be flexible enough to be able to support this kind of research, it seemed appropriate to have academia involved.”

The Laboratory decided to partner with the New Mexico Consortium because of its existing relationship. Carnegie Mellon was chosen because it is a leading "systems" research University. The partnership also includes the University of Utah because of its Network Emulation Testbed (EMULAB) that does software research. A researcher from the UNM High Performance Computing Center also is part of the team.

New summer school

In addition to providing the large scale systems research environment, the PRObE will conduct an innovative summer school to train university students in how to build and manage very large high performance computing environments. Top students will be invited to intern at the PRObE Center itself and possibly at the Laboratory.

The New Mexico Consorium consists of the three research universities in New Mexico, UNM, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and New Mexico State University in partnership with the Laboratory.  Within Los Alamos, PRObE includes the High Performance Computing Division, the LANL Institutional computing program, and the DOE/NNSA Advanced Supercomputing program. Additional support comes from the Principal Associate Director for Science, Technology, and Engineering (PADSTE), and the Associate Director for Theory, Simulation, and Computation (ADTSC).

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