Supercomputers in Grids

Supercomputers in Grids

Michael M. Resch (University of Stuttgart, Germany) and Edgar Gabriel (University of Houston, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-603-9.ch001
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This article describes the state of the art in using supercomputers in Grids. It focuses on various approaches in Grid computing that either aim to replace supercomputing or integrate supercomputers in existing Grid environments. We further point out the limitations to Grid approaches when it comes to supercomputing. We also point out the potential of supercomputers in Grids for economic usage. For this, we describe a public-private partnership in which this approach has been employed for more than 10 years. By giving such an overview we aim at better understanding the role of supercomputers and Grids and their interaction.
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When we talk about supercomputing we typically consider it as defined by the TOP500 list (TOP500, 2008). This list, however, mainly summarizes the fastest systems in terms of some predefined benchmarks. A clear definition of supercomputers is not given. For this article we define the purpose of supercomputing as follows:

  • We want to use the fastest system available to get insight that we could not get with slower systems. The emphasis is on getting insight rather than on achieving a certain level of speed.

Any system (hardware and software combined) that helps to achieve this goal and fulfils the criteria given is considered to be a supercomputer. The definition itself implies that supercomputing and simulations are a third pillar of scientific research and development, complementing empirical and theoretical approaches.

Often, simulation complements experiments. To a growing extent, however, supercomputing has reached a point where it can provide insight that cannot even be achieved using experimental facilities. Some of the fields where this happens are climate research, particle physics or astrophysics. Supercomputing in these fields becomes a key technology if not the only possible one to achieve further breakthroughs.

There is also no official scientific definition for the Grid as the focus of the concept has changed over the years. Initially, supercomputing was the main target of the concept. Foster & Kesselman (1998) write:

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