Pittsburgh's newest supercomputer tackles tough questions
By Craig Smith
Published: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Pittsburgh's newest supercomputer is anything but elementary.
Dubbed Sherlock, it is capable of holding the data equivalent of every human heartbeat on Earth every 2.4 minutes or a graph of approximately 10 billion edges, officials at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center said Friday as they showed the device.
Its 1 terabyte of shared memory is equal to 1,000 iPads. That can be expanded as more users come on board to as much as 512 terabytes.
“This is already an extremely big sandbox,” said Nick Nystrom, director of strategic applications at the Supercomputing Center. “When they outgrow it, we'll build them a bigger one.” PSC is looking for users.
Sherlock was designed with lots of memory and the capacity for more for a specific purpose — to process large data sets and not necessarily for speed, although it's still a supercomputer.
Another supercomputer at the center, called Blacklight, which began operating in 2010, is much faster, capable of performing 37 trillion calculations per second, officials said.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee is home to the world's fastest supercomputer, experts said. The Titan system there performed 17.59 quadrillion calculations per second.
Sherlock was designed to find relationships or patterns in large and complex bodies of information. It is the 14th supercomputer in the center's 27-year history, said Ralph Roskies, scientific director. It joins with computers like Mario, Big Ben and Blacklight, which are capable of performing billions of calculations per second.
Funded through the Strategic Technologies for Cyberinfrastructure program of the National Science Foundation, with a grant of more than $1 million, Sherlock could be used in assessing cyber security risks, detecting money laundering, operational risk in financial services, fraud detection, even baseball analytics, said Arvind Parthasarathi, president of YarcData, which built the uRiKA supercomputer that was enhanced by Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center technicians.
“Sherlock gives PSC the first system available to researchers that is optimized for a particularly difficult family of questions ... security, medicine, public health and social dynamics,” said Nystrom. “These problems cost individuals and society in time, money and human suffering. Sherlock also helps keep Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania at the forefront of high performance computing.”
Researchers like Bin Zhang, of the Fox School of Business at Temple University, said Sherlock has the potential to expand his research into clustering in social networks.
“With the help of Sherlock, I can finally observe the true size of social groups in real-world networks of millions to even a billion people,” he said.
Established in 1986, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Westinghouse Electric Co. From July 2011 through June 2012, the center provided more than 7.8 million processor hours to 917 Pennsylvania researchers from 40 institutions.
PSC has attracted more than $500 million from investment resources outside the state since its founding, Roskies said.
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Regular or Roth? Pick either
- Municipal bonds do another about-face
- Minorities crucial to filling Marcellus shale gas drilling jobs
- Achieving proper credit balance
- Diaper makers do due diligence
- ‘Boomerang’ buyers get another chance at homeownership
- Harsh winter sets back Western Pa. maple harvest
- Real estate goes techno
- Lab develops sponges for oil spill cleanup
- S&P downgrades Highmark; cites UPMC contract fight
- Prepaid cards start to elbow aside bank accounts