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.

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