Argonne, IBM, VA Linux team for testbed

November 14, 1999

The Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory is working with IBM and VA Linux Systems to build "Chiba City" -- the largest supercomputing cluster dedicated to highly scalable open source software development.

The 512-CPU Linux cluster will be opened to the U.S. research community, including universities, laboratories and industry.

The Chiba City Project, conceived by Argonne's Mathematics and Computer Science Division, will be Argonne's most powerful supercomputer. The project will help advance the use of state-of-the-art Linux clusters based on affordable industry standard components in high-performance computing.

The cluster comprises 256 2-CPU computational servers from VA Linux Systems, and IBM Netfinity servers for cluster management, file storage and visualization.

The Chiba City cluster provides a flexible development environment for scalable open source software in four key categories: cluster management, high-performance systems software (file systems, schedulers and libraries), scientific visualization, and distributed computing.

The construction was planned and managed by engineers from Argonne and VA Linux Professional Services, with support from VA and IBM's cluster hardware and software experts. VA Linux also provided cluster management technology and certified new high-performance Linux drivers for the gigabit ethernet cards and graphics cards used in the scalable cluster.

The cluster installation was accomplished in a two-day "barn-raising" event, complete with banjo player. Over fifty Argonne scientists pitched in to help build the cluster, which links high-performance servers from VA Linux with advanced hardware from IBM and the latest in network interconnect hardware.

"The Chiba City barnraising is a great example of the kind of community spirit that the project will support," said Remy Evard, manager of advanced computing and networking in Argonne's Mathematics and Computer Science Division. "Linux clusters are attractive for their price and performance, but more importantly, Linux and open source tools enable our community to work together to tackle large-scale systems software challenges."

"Argonne's Chiba City is a milestone in large-scale Linux systems design, and demonstrates the flexibility and scalability of VA's ClusterCity architecture," said Dr. Larry M. Augustin, president and CEO of VA Linux Systems. "Chiba City will help advance open source projects such as VACM, the VA Cluster Manager, and will benefit the community immensely."

"The prospect of building supercomputer-class systems using commercially available Netfinity servers is an exciting one," said Tom Figgatt, Linux segment executive, IBM Netfinity Servers. "As demonstrated this week at Supercomputing '99 in Portland, IBM is working with the nation's premiere research institutions including Argonne to develop the technologies that will make this a reality."

The Chiba City effort is sponsored primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The project gets its name from the futuristic "Chiba City" in William Gibson's science fiction novel, "Neuromancer." Chiba City technology will be demonstrated this week at the Argonne research exhibit at SC99 in Portland, Oregon.
About Argonne National Laboratory

The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne supports basic and applied scientific research across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from high-energy physics to climatology and biotechnology. Since 1990, Argonne has worked with more than 600 companies and numerous federal agencies and other organizations to help advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for the future. Argonne is operated by the University of Chicago as part of the U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory system.

About VA Linux Systems

VA Linux Systems, Inc. is a leading provider of Linux-based solutions, integrating systems, software and services. VA Linux's broad-based technical expertise in systems and software design, as well as its focus on the Linux operating system and other open source solutions, enables the company to provide high-quality Linux-based systems designed for optimal performance, reliability and scalability. VA also offers comprehensive services and support through its staff of Linux system and software engineers. VA Linux Systems is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., and is located on the web at

About IBM

IBM is the world's largest technology company. Substantial resources have been committed to supporting Linux on its Netfinity servers including becoming the first manufacturer to provide telephone-based ServerStart-up support for Linux -- 24-hours a day, everyday -- in 165 countries throughout the world. According to "Top 500 Supercomputing Sites," IBM supercomputers areinstalled in more top universities, government labs, and businesses than any other vendor. Next year, IBM plans to deliver a supercomputer capable of up to 10 teraflop performance -- translating to 10 trillion floating operations per second or more than four times faster than the fastest computer on the Top 500 list today.

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

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