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NERSC Seeks Faster Data Transmission into Cray Supercomputer

November 11, 2016

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory hosts the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) computing facility for scientific research. In tandem with prominent sponsors such as the U.S. Department of Energy, it works to make networking and large-scale computing faster and more efficient for organizations around the world.

One of NERSC’s current missions is to figure out a way to push data faster into supercomputers. According to NERSC representatives such as Shane Canon, a project engineer with the center, the current demand for speed exceeds the capability of modern computing. This is why Canon and his coworkers have partnered with Cray, a developer of supercomputers, to test new methods of pushing data into the supercomputer that operates at NERSC labs.

NERSC hosts a Cray XC40 model, which could see a benefit from Canon and fellows’ work with software-defined networking (SDN) and advanced scheduling of networking bandwidth. Brent Draney, a networking group lead for the Berkeley Center, also commented on the process of advancing the speed and capability of data transfer. He mentioned that, although direct transmission speeds inside a supercomputer are important, it can be just as essential for software to take the place of the manual work of planning and reconfiguring data transmission paths.

Regarding software’s place in networking, SDN systems can adapt to the needs of specific projects by analyzing and remembering which computing nodes work best for specific flows of data. This way, network researchers can pay attention to the initial setup of networks before allowing software to take the lead. Once specific projects – data transmission of unique patterns – are underway, Draney said, “SDN [can] do all of the bookkeeping for which compute nodes need to be connected to what networks.”

                    Image via Bigstock

The implications of research at NERSC reach far. Businesses in all markets are reaching to SDN as the best way to fit their computing and storage needs. The global demand for software in networking is so great that, TMC reported this year, it could reach a value of $12.5 billion by 2020.

NERSC officials will also work with the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) officials, who also assist the Department of Energy. In that position, NERSC will use ESnet’s expertise to help extend its learning of SDN techniques to wide area networks. In the future, wide area networks could become much faster and benefit from real-time analytics and network performance changes that ride on the shoulders of data being pumped quickly into Cray supercomputers.

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