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Spirit ribbon-cutting
Maj. Gen. William McCasland (center), Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) commander, hosts a ribbon-cutting for the “Spirit supercomputer. Joining the general are (from left) Bobby Hunter, Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program associate director; Jim Brickner, president of SGI Federal; former Congressman Dave Hobson, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner; and Jeff Graham, director of AFRL’s DoD Supercomputer Resource Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Niki Jahns)
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World's 14th-fastest supercomputer launches at WPAFB

Posted 7/26/2013   Updated 7/26/2013 Email story   Print story


by Amy Rollins
88th Air Base Wing Public Affiars Skywrighter Staff

7/26/2013 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The 14th-fastest supercomputer in the world was officially launched July 22 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The $25 million SGI ICE X model supercomputer, named "Spirit" after the Air Force's B-2 advanced bomber for its power and ability to deliver, was unveiled at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Department of Defense (DOD) Supercomputing Resource Center (DSRC) in Bldg. 802, Area B, before Air Force dignitaries and members from the U.S. House of Representatives. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was hosted by Maj. Gen. William McCasland, AFRL commander.

Through the DOD High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP), researchers and scientists have the opportunity to use the newest technology to conduct investigations that may not otherwise be feasible. The Spirit supercomputing system will help facilitate weapon systems design, advance design concepts, accelerate modification programs for criti¬cal warfighting systems, enable higher-fidelity modeling and simu¬lation studies and support computational science and engineering applications.

Spirit ranks as the largest unclassified supercomputer in the DOD HPCMP, according to TOP500 (www.top500.org), and became available for production use on March 25.

McCasland congratulated DSRC personnel for standing up the Spirit system and thanked Bobby Hunter, HPCMP associate director, for delivering the resources to build the system. He also thanked U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, for his support of Wright-Patterson AFB.

"Better computing resources mean we can better optimize designs, model larger and more complex systems and could, therefore, return higher productivity for our scientists and engineers across the department," McCasland said.

He noted that the Spirit has more than 73,000 central processing units and a theoretical performance level of more than 1.5 petaflops. A petaflop is a measure of a computer's processing speed and can be expressed as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second.

"This is just a barnburner of a computer," McCasland said.

Turner said the Spirit represents future invention and knowledge expansion.

"This investment doesn't represent just the business that is being done today but really the future of what's going to be done at AFRL tomorrow," he said.

Turner acknowledged the contributions of former Congressman Dave Hobson, who said he feels the future of the Air Force is in its intellectual capabilities.

According to Hunter, the Spirit will enable scientists and researchers to explore and understand phenomena in science that would otherwise be unachievable.

"Greater fidelity in modeling and simulation will be able to take place, allowing for more efficient, effective and safer design for the resources and equipment that support the warfighter in their mission," he said.

Jim Brinker, president of SGI Federal, noted that there are 144 terabytes of memory associated with the Spirit system, and that it exceeds standard benchmark performance on DOD applications by more than 27 percent.

"It's about the mission and accomplishing the mission," Brinker said. "This system will assist the DOD modernization program and AFRL to accomplish their mission, so whether it's the vital research of the scientists pushing some of the new envelopes that you push, or whether it will help ensure the military advantage of warfighting superiority on the 21st-century battlefield, that's what this system is all about."

Jeff Graham, director of the AFRL DSRC, said it was a "red letter day" and that the fact that the Spirit system is even more efficient than expected will give its customers "way bigger bang for their buck." Graham mentioned three current users and their projects:

· Dr. Jerry Boatz, who is investigating a new class of chemical propellants, called energetic ionic liquids, for rockets and missiles for the Air Force. He's already accumulated 6.5 million hours on the Spirit system, Graham said.

· Dr. Alexei Poludnenko, a Naval Research Laboratory scientist working on simulating the transition from deflagration to detonation in an explosion. "Once he can create the environment to control the detonation effectively, it will revolutionize energy generation and propulsion systems using detonation-based engines," Graham said.

· Dr. Tanya Chantawansri, from the Army Research Laboratory, is researching the development of new polymer structures under extreme pressures and high stream rates to provide significantly more effective protective eye wear for Soldiers and armor for vehicles.

Graham credited his team of dedicated, experienced and committed professionals in bringing the Spirit system to life.

"This is a day to puff your chests out a little bit and celebrate," he told them.

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