iSGTW Feature - Optical network key to next-generation research

Feature - Optical network key to next-generation e-research

Larry Smarr at TeraGrid 2008.

Image courtesy of Shandra Williams, Pittsburgh
Supercomputing Center.

At the TeraGrid '08 conference, UC San Diego's Larry Smarr urges university campuses to remove network bottlenecks to supercomputer users.

"All the pieces are in place for a revolution in the usability of remote high-performance computers to advance science across many disciplines," says Larry Smarr, director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Imagine scientists all over the world analyzing a complex dataset while interacting as if they were physically in the same room-it's coming.

"The last ten years have established the state, regional, national and global optical networks needed for this revolution, but the bottleneck is on the user's campus," says Smarr. He urges campuses to invest in local 'data freeway' systems -switched optical fibers connecting the campus gateway to specific buildings and into the users' labs.

"The OptIPuter project has been exploring for six years how user-controlled, wide-area, 1- or 10-Gbps Internet protocol (IP) lightpaths-termed lambdas-on fiber optics can provide direct, uncongested access to global data repositories, scientific instruments and high-performance computational resources," says Smarr. "The OptIPuter essentially completes the grid program. Now the user can discover, reserve and integrate dedicated lambdas, too, creating a high-performance LambdaGrid."

The OptIPortal, a networked, scalable, high-resolution LCD tiled display system, driven by a PC cluster and designed for the user's laboratory, can be constructed with commodity commercial displays and processors. OptIPortal runs on Linux, Mac or Windows.

A rat cerebellum, composed of 43,200 separate images that were captured with a multi-photon microscope, is displayed at full-resolution on a tiled display in the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California, San Diego, an OptIPuter partner. Large-scale visualizations like these are expected to become less unwieldy and more user-friendly to share as more OptIPuter nodes are connected via optical networks around the globe.

Image courtesy of Thomas Deerinck, Sunny Chow, James Bouwer, Hiroyuki Hakozaki, Maryann Martone, Steven Peltier, and Mark Ellisman; National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, University of California,
San Diego.

"OptIPortals allow end users to choose the right amount of local storage, compute, and graphics capacity needed for their application," says Smarr. "In addition, the tiled walls let users visually analyze the complexity of supercomputing runs." The highest-resolution display system in the world, located in the Calit2 building on the UCSD campus, provides a screen resolution of over 250 million pixels.

OptIPortal systems are now operating in over two dozen institutions in the United States and internationally.

"TeraGrid users are located in research campuses across the nation, but they all need to carry out interactive visual analysis of massive datasets generated by a remote supercomputer," he says. "I believe that we will see early adopters step forward in the next year to set up prototypes of this cyberarchitecture."

-Jan Zverina and Warren Froehlich, San Diego Supercomputing Center

Related Links:
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2)

San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC)
SDSC Rocks Project
National LambdaRail
Internet2 Dynamic Circuit Network
National Science Foundation