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OSC Research Reports and Highlights

OSC's Supercomputers

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Common uses for a supercomputer

Glossary of terms

Backbone — The part of a network that handles the major traffic for the longest distances; it provides the highest-speed transmission paths in the network.

Bandwidth — the transmission capacity of a connection, usually measured in bits-per-second (bps.) A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 57,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video would require roughly 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression.

Broadband — A high-speed, high-capacity transmission medium that can carry signals from multiple independent network carriers. Broadband technology can support a wide range of frequencies. Generally refers to connections to the Internet with much greater bandwidth than you can get with dial-up.

Circuit — The physical connection of channels, conductors and equipment between two given points through data is transferred.

Computational science — Using computers to analyze and solve scientific and engineering problems. In practical use, it is typically the application of computer simulation and other forms of computation to problems in various scientific disciplines. These models require massive amounts of calculations and often are executed on supercomputers or distributed computing platforms.

The field is distinct from computer science, which is the mathematical study of computation, computers and information processing. It also is different from theory and experiment, which are the traditional forms of science and engineering.

Computer modeling/simulation — A computer program that attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system. Computer simulations have become a useful part of modeling many natural systems, human systems and in the process of engineering new technology, to gain insight into the way things operate.

Dark Fiber — Optical fiber that is in place, but not being used.
Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) — the highest capacity version of Wave Division Multiplexing, which is a means of increasing the capacity of fiber optic data trans-mission systems by utilizing multiple wavelengths of light  (lambdas).

Fiber Cable — A collection of glass strands protected by buffer tubes with a protective outer covering, stiffening rods and filters that are connected to specified locations, and have no optronics or electronics attached to them.

Gigabit — One billion bits per second. A unit of measure that can be transmitted (i.e. over the Internet) in a given period of time (i.e. per second). In eight seconds at a transmission rate of 1 Gbps you could transmit 200 copies of a standard dictionary.

Gigaflops — A billion floating point operations per second.

Hardware — The physical equipment and machinery, such as the CPU, modem, cables, etc. The more memory and disk storage a computer has, the more work it can do. The faster the memory and disks transfer data and instructions to the CPU, the faster the work gets done. A hardware requirement is based on the size of the databases that will be created and the number of users o applications that will be served at the same time.

High Performance Computing (HPC) — Typically refers to supercomputers used in scientific research. The field of high performance computing  comprises computing applications on parallel supercomputers and computer clusters. Most ideas for the new wave of grid computing were originally from HPC.

Internet2 — Internet2 is a consortium of more than 200 U.S. universities, industry, and government that develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies for research and education.

Last Mile — An imprecise term that typically means the link—usually twisted pair copper wire—between an end- user and the Telco central office; local, long distance or Internet.

Megabit (Mbps) — A measurement of transmission speed indicating that one million bits of information travels a certain distance in one second.

Megaflops — A million floating point operations per second.

OSCnet — A dedicated high-speed fiber-optic network linking Ohio colleges and universities with research facilities to promote research and economic development. Over 1,600 miles of fiber create the network backbone to connect colleges and universities, K-12 schools, and communities together.

Point of Presence (POP) — A physical place where a carrier has a presence for network access. A POP generally is in the form of a switch or router. They transmit Internet traffic over long distances, and can exchange traffic and routes.

Parallel Processing — The simultaneous use of more than one computer to solve a problem. There are many different kinds of parallel computers. They are distinguished by the kind of interconnection between processors or nodes (groups of processors) and between processors and memory

Router — Routers are highly intelligent devices that instruct switches in the core of the network, where speed is of the essence. This “intelligence” allows them to consider the network as a whole in order to determine the best way to “route” Internet traffic.

Software — Deals with the details of an ever-changing business and must process transactions in a logical fashion. Languages are used to program the software. The “logic and language” involved in analysis and programming is generally far more complicated than specifying a storage and transmission requirement.

Shared Instrumentation — The ability to access powerful electron microscopes remotely by researchers and commercial industries over the Internet in real time.

SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) — A fiber-optic transmission system for high-speed digital traffic.

Supercomputer — The fastest, largest or most powerful computer available. It’s often used for simulations in weather forecasting, petroleum exploration and production, structural analysis, computational fluid dynamics, physics and chemistry, electronic design, nuclear energy research and meteorology. It’s also used for realtime animated graphics.

Teraflops: A trillion (1012) floating point operations per second.