Military expands computing centers on Maui

Computing center gets fresh Mana

Supersystem in S. Maui blows Jaws out of water with double the power

By HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer
POSTED: August 22, 2009

New University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and Mayor Charmaine Tavares celebrate Friday’s dedication of the new computing platform at the Maui High Performance Computing Center.

KIHEI – The Maui High Performance Computing Center got more Mana on Friday – that’s the name of its new platform, a giant parallel processing machine that requires $350,000 worth of electricity a month to keep it humming.

Mana is double the power of its predecessor, Jaws, which in turn was a huge step up when it was installed just three years ago.

Mana is a Dell PowerEdge M610 with 1,152 nodes. Each node contains two 2.8 Ghz Intel Nehalem processors with 24 GB RAM for a total of 9,216 computer cores. That gives it a performance of 103 TeraFLOPS per second.

A FLOP is a floating point operation, and that’s 103,000,000,000,000 every second.

Data flows into a Dual Data Rate Infiniband Data Direct disk storage system than can handle nearly 400 terabytes of data.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye spoke at the dedication and shortly afterward at the rededication of Akimeka’s Joint Information Technology Center across the street at Maui Research & Technology Park. Inouye helped find the funds that inaugurated the much-smaller supercomputer that launched the computing center in 1992.

Gene Bal, the director of the center, said about 95 percent of the computer’s time is devoted to military work. Maui is one of six Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Centers.

The computer is used for research in computing, communications and computational modeling. Users can access the machine from distant locations, but many of them come to Maui because the center itself has graphical capacities that cannot be used remotely, Bal said.

The power-hungry machines will soon get some juice of their own. The computing center will add a photovoltaic research and development component.

The Kihei R&T Park is one of the best places in the world to put a photovoltaic panel. Even before the Maui Research & Technology Center was built, the hillside was used by researchers at the University of California at Davis to test a flexible photovoltaic system, called PV-USA. Engineers were surprised when they turned it on because it put out much more electricity than they had calculated.

It turns out that during most afternoons, the R&T Park gets 1.3 “suns” shining on it the direct sun, plus another three-tenths of a sun from light that falls on the slopes of Haleakala, bouncing up to the afternoon clouds that usually build up and back down on Kihei.

Akimeka also does military research. The Joint Information Technology Center is owned by the government and managed by Akimeka. Matt Granger, vice president for operations, describes it as a largely “virtual” organization, although it has about 66 people working on it here.

Akimeka’s primary contracts with the Department of Defense involve military health systems. It specializes in melding the health information systems of the three military services so that they can be accessed from anywhere.

That capacity is now finding a wider application in helping the military share data among many users. Granger estimates that up to 90 percent of the JITC work is still medical, but it is now turning into a research and development center, “heavy on the development side,” for a wider variety of tasks.

When Jaws was installed, much of its predecessor was made available to the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Bal said that since Jaws is only three years old, “this system has a significant remaining nominal useful life.”

“A portion of Jaws will be partitioned for use by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory,” he said. This will support the Maui Space Surveillance System Advanced Image Reconstruction project, helping make use of data gathered by telescopes at Science City on Haleakala’s summit.

“Additionally, the University of Hawaii has expressed an interest in using another partition of Jaws for academic research, which would be sponsored under the Educational Partnership Agreement executed between the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Hawaii,” Bal said.

The photovoltaic project is being supported by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

* Harry Eagar can be reached at


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