SARL’S future computing capabilities
The US Supercomputers Army Research Laboratory engineers rely on to influence the direction of future armour solutions and other unprecedented capabilities for the soldier moved into a space large enough to house five supercomputers each with 4,000 to 20,000 processors each. In the next four years, the centre will quadruple its computing capacity.
Army researchers use the centre’s supercomputing systems, also known as high performance computers, to design and develop military technologies, such as future armour systems and other unprecedented capabilities for the soldier.
The centre will provide key enabling computational technologies in support of ARL’s cyber security collaboration research alliance with academia, industry and other government research organisations to develop a fundamental understanding of cyber phenomena, including aspects of human attackers, cyber defenders and end users, so that fundamental laws, theories, and theoretically grounded and empirically validated models can be applied to a broad range of Army domains, applications and environments.
ARL Director Dr Thomas Russell’s said the role laboratory researchers played in the modern computer age is part of the basic research laboratory’s historical contributions in hardware, software, advanced networking and computational science research.
“If we look back to 1992 and the state of computing then compared to today, we can only imagine what computational capability the future will bring that will take discovery and innovation to heights yet unseen,” Russell said. The new facility has over 20,000 square foot of supercomputing room space, which will house up to six large supercomputing systems by fiscal 2016.
The centre holds two machines in the top 100 fastest computers in the world. The IBM iDataPlex ‘Pershing’ and ‘Hercules’ systems are the 62nd and 81st fastest computers in the world, respectively. In total, the centre will have a cumulative computational capability of more than 1.2 petaflops of processing power. That’s 12 trillion floating point operations per second. By 2016, the center’s capacity will grow to 4.8 petaflops.
That kind of processing power enables the kinds of simulations and calculations that were difficult – and sometimes impossible – to realise before HPC, said David Kleponis, who leads the Passive Hybrid Armour Team within ARL’s Multi-Threat Armour Branch.
“Armour design is a product of the knowledge we gain from a scientific and engineering process,” which includes high performance computing,” Kleponis said. “This knowledge is greatly enhanced by HPC and is gained by observing processes that occur in microseconds, namely how armour actively disrupts and disperses a penetrator, like an improvised explosive device, for example. The insight we gain through computation is a multi-dimensional view inside very complex and violent physical events so we can learn from those observations and design very efficient armour solutions which ultimately save lives.”
Had they used desktop computers, it would have taken research engineers 17 centuries to compute what HPCs did in about a month.
Spinoffs from that project resulted in armours for route clearance vehicles including Husky, Buffalo and RG31 and also launched the MRAP Expedient Armour Programme (IED armour) and the MRAP Spiral Armour Programme (IED armour) for the RG-33, IMG MaxxPro Plus and Caiman; and the quick reaction armour support (including development and analysis) to theatre.