I’ve been down this road before but The Japanese Earth Simulator is just too cool to ignore. It’s the world’s most powerful computer…by a long shot. Hans Meuer, the father of The Top 500 Supercomputer List says;

I expect the ES to be faster than the sum of the first other 19 [Supercomputer] machines in the forthcoming TOP500 list…The ES is a real challenge for the US ASCI program. The US labs are now falling significantly behind.”

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s $24.5 million HP supercomputer, the world’s most powerful Linux-based supercomputer, now looks like a piker. Consisting of 1,400 Itaniums, it’s expected to peak at 8.3 teraflops. Scheduled to be fully operational in 2003, it will be used for in biological and environmental research. The Asci White supercomputer nuclear bomb simulator leads the current TOP500 list at 7 Teraflops. The Japanese Earth Simulator, with over 35 Tflop/s, is five times “faster” than ASCI White which still claims “the world’s fastest computer” on their website. Vanity can be cruel. Bean counters dominate over rocket scientist at the Top 500 Clusters. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile John Delaney’s Neptune Project NEEDS affordable supercomputer power. Instead of making doomsday weapons, he is wiring up the West Coast in an undersea monitoring network extending 10 Gig Ethernet from Canada to California. It’s switched at the The Pittock hub in Portland. Voxel resolution using NPACI’s Scalable Visualization Toolkit and Mesh Viewer enables Massively Parallel Rendering in the Visible Human. Imagine Advanced Collaborative Environments using Tele-Immersion and CAVE over community grids with a live Panorama Theatre at the base of the OHSU tram.

Why spend $30 million for a TeraFlop supercomputer? A Machine Consortium could tap into a grid of 1000, Gigaflop home PCs providing “free” broadband to schools and businesses in exchange for access to their computers in the evening. Users might run screen savers like Folding@home or Seti@home.

Bring grid supercomputing home. IBM does. Combine IBM’s servers, software and storage for Grid Computing with the Sony/IBM PlayStation-3s or LiveClustered X-Boxes. Nvidia runs Earthview 3D software for example. The basic TeraNode might consist of 20, Pentium IVs (~1 GigaFlops each), networked with GigE and backboned to the OHSU hub over 10-50 Mbps wireless. The $12,000 package might be split 50/50. Put schools and businesses on-line cheap. Instead of spending $25 million we could invest in the future.

The unlicensed 5.8 Ghz band can deliver a 100 Mbps backbone from OHSU, high on the hill. That location can see nearly all Portland schools, community centers and downtown businesses. Schools might get “free” broadband internet access with a Tsunami Multipoint Bridge ($1000-$3000) or Iospan’s 802.16 backbone. Individuals could link to nearby 10-100 Mbps hubs via inexpensive Mesh networks. “Free” connectivity in exchange for providing a grid computing node. The power of 10,000 Pentium IVs could be harnessed at very little cost and result in one of the most powerful computing arrays on Earth.

Homeland Security may ignore the biggest threat right under our noses simply because scientists lack the political clout of police and fire departments. How many $2 Billion fabs will be incapacitated by a subduction zone earthquake? Nobody knows. One thing is certain; a 9.5 subduction zone earthquake could be worse than a string of nuclear bombs…and it WILL happen.

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