Transatlantic Visual Supercomputing Demonstrated At Alliance'98

April 29, 1998

Monday night, attendees to the "Alliance '98" conference in Champaign, Illinois (USA), had a glimpse of what will be routine work of the next century as they view a demonstration of interactive visual supercomputing - computed live in Berlin - across an 8,000 kilometer distance. The 3D simulation code, which solves Einstein's equations for the gravitational field, was developed primarily at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert-Einstein-Institute, AEI) in Potsdam. The demo was computed on a CRAY T3E-136-128 system at the Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum für Informationstechnik Berlin (ZIB) in Berlin-Dahlem, Germany and displayed live on ImmersaDesk virtual reality systems in the conference which is sponsored by the National Computational Science Alliance (Alliance) in the US. The demonstration is a feat remarkable not only for the scientific achievement it represents, but also for the complex labyrinth of international collaborations that has made it possible.

Video sequences of the simulation are available in the Internet at:
http://cactus.aei-potsdam.mpg.de/Movies/
http://jean-luc.ncsa.uiuc.edu/

The event builds on the project done last year at Supercomputing'97, when a similar connection had been established between the Rechenzentrum Garching (RZG) in Munich and San Jose, CA. The parallel interactive software developed by the RZG at the "Supercomputing?97" demo displayed the data in Champaign as they were computed in Berlin.

Instrumental in providing the network connections to enable this demonstration were the Berlin BRAIN infrastructure (managed by ZIB), GMD Focus, Deutsche Telekom Berkom GmbH, Teleglobe Canada Inc., CANARIE INC/NTN, and the National Science Foundation in the US with its very high-performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS). The Deutsche Telekom has set up a line going from Berlin to Sylt, an island in the North Sea, installing a special cable in the Berkom building just for this high speed networking experiment. From Sylt a transatlantic connection will be established via Teleglobe's fibre-optic submarine CANTAT-3 ATM link to Pennan Point (Nova Scotia, Canada). From there on CANARIE, an experimental Canadian high-performance networking testbed, takes over to carry the data via its CA*net II network, Canada's next generation Internet initiative, to STAR TAP, the Science Technology And Research Transit Access Point, in Chicago (US). The last step from Chicago to the Alliance '98 demonstration hall at Champaign (Illinois, US) is passed through the vBNS network facilities. The digital information will be transmitted between Berlin and Illinois at a data rate of millions of bits per second, or roughly 100 times the fastest analog modem lines available today.

The massive computing power required for the numerical solution of the gravitational waves is provided by ZIB's 128 processor CRAY, which also helped in establishing the connectivity trough the transatlantic line, together with intensive network testing and optimization suggestions.

The effort results in an opportunity for visitors of the "Alliance'98" demo to witness the online solution of Einstein's three dimensional equations, some of the most complex in all of physics, which describe the simulation of interactions between black holes and gravitational waves. "Five years ago," says Ed Seidel, a scientist at AEI, "such simulations were virtually impossible in 3D, and now we can run one interactively, in almost real time, remotely across this 8,000 kilometer distance."

The "Alliance'98" is a meeting of all partners of the National Computational Science Alliance ( http://alliance.ncsa.uiuc.edu/), a partnership among computational scientists, computer scientists, and professionals in education, outreach, and training at more than 50 U.S. universities and research institutions working to prototype the computational and information infrastructure of the next century. It is held at the University of Illinois Assembly Hall in Champaign, IL, April 27-30, 1998. The demonstration took place at Monday, April 27th, 5:00-6:30 CST and Wednesday, April 20th, 5:00-6:30 CST, which is Tuesday morning 0:00-1:30 MESZ and Thursday morning 0:00-1:30 MESZ local time in Berlin.

The Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum fuer Informationstechnik Berlin (ZIB), http://www.zib.de/, a non-university research institute of the State of Berlin, operates in the field of information technology. Its research and development concentrates on application-oriented algorithmic mathematics, in close interdisciplinary cooperation with universities and scientific institutes in Berlin. Furthermore, ZIB offers access to high-performance computers. The Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum was founded in 1984 as an institution incorporated under public law.

The Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert-Einstein-Institut, AEI) is located in Potsdam, Germany. The institute was established in 1995 to pursue the study of gravitational physics, especially general relativity and quantum gravity. In pursuing its research the institute supports large-scale computer calculations, both in house and in collaboration with other groups, and it participates in a number of international projects.

The National Computational Science Alliance is an initiative to prototype an advanced computational infrastructure for the twenty-first century and includes more than 50 academic research partners from across the United States. It is funded by the National Science Foundation. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the leading-edge site for the Alliance. It is funded by the NSF, the State of Illinois, the University of Illinois, industrial partners, and other federal agencies.

The Rechenzentrum Garching ( http://www.rzg.mpg.de), a joint computing center of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and the Max Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics, is located close to Munich, Germany. On its large CRAY T3E system, research is carried out in the fields of material sciences, polymer research, plasma physics, biochemistry, laser physics, astrophysics, and gravitational physics.

Published: 29-04-98
Contact:Werner Benger
Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum für
Informationstechnik Berlin (ZIB)
Phone: +49-30-84185-184

Contact: Ed Seidel
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics
(Albert-Einstein-Institut, AEI), Potsdam
Phone: +49-331-27537-13
-end-


Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

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