UMBC Supercomputing Center Eyes Socio-Econ Problems

The University of Maryland-Baltimore County and IBM said they would collaborate to build a facility dedicated to research on aerospace, defense, financial services, medical imaging, and weather/climate change prediction.

Researchers called the Multicore Computing Center (MCC) an "orchestra" of one of the world's most powerful supercomputing chips.

They  were referring to the Cell Broadband Engine (Cell/B.E.), jointly developed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba.

The processor is used in products such as Sony's PlayStation 3. Cell processors are capable of powering image and video-intensive tasks like virtual reality, as well as simulations and imaging for aerospace, medicine, and defense.

Researchers said they would face a challenge making the processors work together. "Cell processors are groups of eight very fast, independent but simple PCs with their own tiny memory all on a single chip each with its own leader," said Milt Halem, director of the MCC and professor of computer science at UMBC.

"The challenge is choreographing all the chips to work efficiently in parallel. It's like a distributed orchestra with 224 musicians and 28 conductors connected with headphones trying to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 together."

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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