Newest ARL Supercomputer Expands Army's Computational Sciences Footprint Across DoD

July 15, 2010

ARL Associate Director Reed Skaggs, third from right, is joined by Harold J. Breaux and Charles Nietubicz during a ribbon cutting ceremony recognizing the dedication of ARL's newest supercomputer. (photo by Conrad Johnson). ARL Associate Director Reed Skaggs, third from right, is joined by Harold J. Breaux and Charles Nietubicz during a ribbon cutting ceremony recognizing the dedication of ARL's newest supercomputer.
(photo by Conrad Johnson)

High performance computers, like those housed within the Defense Supercomputing Resource Center that ARL manages at Aberdeen Proving Ground, help the Army solve some of the toughest scientific challenges of our time, develop new applications for proven systems like up-armored combat vehicles, and expand military medical research.

ARL dedicated its newest supercomputer, the Harold, on June 29 at the historic Ballistic Research Laboratory Hall, now a conference center that pays homage to the hallmark organization responsible for helping to create the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the world's first general-purpose electronic computer.

Named in honor of Harold J. Breaux, a Defense Department supercomputing resourcing pioneer, the new system is a SGI Altix ICE 8200 Linux cluster and the largest of its kind ever deployed at the ARL DSRC. It offers 10,752 Intel Xeon 5500 series processor cores and higher memory bandwidth than other high performing computers here and across the DoD HPCMP, enabling more of the peak processing capability to be delivered with less code optimization. The computer arrived in June 2009 and has been in production use since October 2009.

Critical to defense research projects is the maturation and expansion of computational sciences coupled with standard engineering disciplines, said Charles Nietubicz, director of ARL's DSRC and chief of the Advanced Computing & Computational Sciences Division within the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate (CISD). He noted that today, ARL researchers cannot do basic and applied research without high performing computers because such capability, along with theory and experimentation, introduces relevant computational power needed to do physics-based research.

The Harold is one of three ARL supercomputers that bring the DSRC's total processing power to more than 350 Teraflops, or trillion floating point operations per second. Nietubicz said this significantly enhances DoD scientists' and researchers' ability to investigate challenging projects involving increased fidelity by applying more computational cycles. The other two supercomputers are the Tow, which has 6,656 cores with 52.2 TB system memory and 400 TB of local storage capacity, and the TI-09 cluster, acquired in 2009, which is a test and development system with 96 cores that supports the other two larger systems.

Breaux said he was humbled that the system shares his name; to him, it is a permanent and public reminder of the "good ride" he has experienced in his career with the Army. One of his most significant contributions to supercomputing came through his lead role as an Army representative on a DoD working group in 1992, which founded the multi-billion dollar HPC Modernization Program.

Breaux entered federal service in 1962 first as a second lieutenant assigned to the Ballistic Research Laboratory, ARL's predecessor organization. He spent 33 years as a civil servant, which included 21 years as a research mathematician involved in mathematical analysis and computer modeling and simulation of ballistics, including helicopter fire control and phenomena such as laser propagation and effects associated with military systems.

During his last 12 years as a civil servant, he served as chief of the High Performance Computing Division, and as manager of ARL HPC Systems which included computer operations, network development, applications research and outreach initiatives aimed to expand and modernize HPC capability throughout ARL, the Army and DoD. He retired from federal service in 1996 and has served in the DSRC as a consultant for several years.

Breaux is recognized for writing the proposal that resulted in ARL's designation as one of the first three DoD laboratories chosen as a Defense Supercomputer Resource Centers. His achievements include the Army R&D Achievement Award, Superior Civilian Service Award, and Meritorious Civilian Service Award. In 2005 he was given a "HERO" award by the Defense Department for his long term contributions to the High Performance Computing Modernization Program.

The HPCMP has procured systems annually from 2001 to 2010. The ARL DSRC offers access to 5 HPC systems, complimented by a high performance 10 gigabit network and a petabyte-scale archival storage system.


Last Update / Reviewed: July 15, 2010