Cornell Runs 256-Processor Cluster on NT

A vendor consortium coordinated through Cornell University put together one of the largest Windows NT-based clustered systems yet.

A vendor consortium coordinated through Cornell University put together one of the largest Windows NT-based clustered systems yet.

The Advanced Cluster Computing Consortium (AC3) announced the installation of its 64-node, 256-processor system, dubbed Velocity, this month. The system will form the foundation for the work of the AC3. The research and IT service consortium was established last month for business, higher-education and government agencies evaluating and using commodity-based computer systems.

More nodes have been put together before. The Tandem division of Compaq Computer Corp. built a 72-node Windows NT-based system last year for Sandia National Laboratories ( That system, called Kudzu, had 144 processors.

Velocity consists of 64 four-way Dell PowerEdge servers, each with 4 GB RAM and 54 GB of disk space. The 256 Intel Pentium III Xeon 500 MHz processors with 2 MB of L2 cache each, power the system, which is housed at the Cornell Theory Center (CTC, The primary cluster interconnect is provided by Giganet Inc. (

Cornell reports the cluster will serve as a production high-performance computing resource for CTC’s research community and AC3.

Microsoft donated $400,000 to the CTC and contributed 64 Windows NT licenses. The company also is offering a grant of $200,000 next year. Microsoft will donate 64 Windows 2000 licenses when the new operating system is available.

The operation is a boon for Microsoft, which gets to promote Windows NT’s much maligned scalability. The software giant also gains bragging rights by displacing an IBM Corp. supercomputer at Cornell.

Andrew Ainslie, a market research analyst at the CTC, is pleased with using NT for the supercomputing environment. "We are able to develop code on inexpensive machines in our offices, and then scale the application massively when it is ready to run," Ainslie says.

In preparation for the arrival of the 256-processor cluster, CTC’s Cluster Computing Solutions Group has been porting applications to a smaller cluster that was received as part of a Technology for Education 2000 grant that Intel made to Cornell in 1997. The grant enabled Cornell to develop expertise in moving applications from Unix systems to the Wintel platform.

The CTC is a high-performance computing and research center located at the Ithaca, N.Y., campus of Cornell University. The university uses the computing environment for genetic, molecular and other compute-intensive academic research.

AC3 members in addition to Microsoft, Intel and Dell include Etnus Inc., Fluent Inc., Giganet, Kuck & Associates Inc., MPI Software Technology Inc., The Numerical Algorithms Group Inc., The Portland Group Inc., SAS Institute Inc. and Visual Numerics Inc.