La más rápida supercomputadora

Sun anuncia una nueva computadora ultra rápida y ultra simple. Su diseñador, Andreas Bechtolsheim, fue uno de los creadores de Sun Microsystems y creador de software y hardware desde sus años de escuela secundaria.

Andreas Bechtolsheim, el mismo que 26 años atrás integraba el grupo que creó Sun Microsystems, acaba de anunciar la última de sus creaciones: una supercomputadora que llevará el nombre de Sun Constellation System y que competirá por el título de la más rápida del mundo.

Bechtolsheim, ahora con 51 años, ya tiene en su haber el diseño una larga serie de computadoras donde fue metiendo un increíble poder de computación en el espacio más pequeño posible. Y a pesar de haberse convertido en una de las personas más ricas del mundo, sigue obsesionado con diseñar computadoras cada vez más potentes. Su nueva máquina, que está siendo instalada en el Texas Advanced Computing Center de Austin, Texas, es el más acabado ejemplo de su estilo técnico simple y elegante. Se diferencia de otras computadoras armadas con millares de microprocesadores en red gracias a la habilidad de Bechtolsheim para organizar una serie de disciplinas necesarias para crear las más rápidas computadoras.

Por eso es uno de los principales candidatos a heredar la corona de Seymour Cray, el famoso diseñador de las computadoras más rápidas hasta que se mató en un accidente de autos en 1996. Su total dedicación al diseño de computadores es especialmente notable debido a su riqueza. Fundó tres empresas exitosas además de ser uno de los primeros financistas de Google. El cheque inicial de US$ 100.000 que extendió a los fundadores de Google Sergey Brin y Larry Page fue una inversión que hoy vale más de US$ 1.500 millones.

Pero esa riqueza no se advierte en este hombre que recibe en un despacho modesto y se pasa las horas hablando de supercomputación.

Ahora que las computadoras se arman con microprocesadores que están a la venta en los negocios abiertos a todo público, el desafío en diseño es ver cómo se puede lograr que los procesadores compartan los datos que hacen falta para responder a problemas científicos y técnicos cada vez más complejos.

Bechtolsheim creyó haber encontrado una solución a ese problema al modificar un conmutador estándar de datos y hacer posible que cualquiera de los 13.000 o más microprocesadores AMD Barcelona se comuniquen entre sí a una velocidad 10 veces superior a la de los conmutadores existentes.

Quienes lo conocen dicen que su persistencia completa su decisión como diseñador.
Su nueva creación tendrá su prueba de fuego contra una IBM, su rival más poderosa en el mercado computadoras de alto desempeño.

Today, at a high-performance computing conference in Dresden, Germany, he plans to introduce his newest machine: a supercomputer to be named the Sun Constellation System that will compete for the title as the world’s fastest when installation is complete this year.
“It is hard to believe that 30 years later I am still working on the same problem,” said Mr. Bechtolsheim, who is better known as Andy.
Between the milestones, Mr. Bechtolsheim, who is 51 years old, has designed a parade of computers that have continued to squeeze the most processing power or storage capacity into the smallest possible space. And, despite becoming one of the richest people in the world, he remains obsessed with designing ever more powerful computers. His new machine, which is currently being installed at the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin, is the latest example of his trademark elegant and simple engineering. It is set apart from other supercomputers made from tens of thousands of networked microprocessor chips by Mr. Bechtolsheim’s ability to orchestrate the range of computing disciplines that are needed to create the fastest computers.
As such, he is the leading candidate to inherit the mantle of Seymour Cray, a famous computer designer who consistently designed the world’s fastest computers from the 1960s until his death in a car accident in 1996. “He is this amazing blend of artist and engineer and that reminds me of Seymour,” said Larry Smarr, an astrophysicist and supercomputer user, who was an early customer of Sun Microsystems’ computers as director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications during the 1980s.
Mr. Bechtolsheim’s 18-hour-a-day dedication to computer design is all the more remarkable because of his wealth. He has founded three successful companies in addition to being one of Google’s first financial backers. The initial $100,000 check he wrote to the Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page is an investment now worth more than $1.5 billion.
None of that great wealth is apparent in the man who sits in a windowless conference room talking about supercomputing switching fabrics at a rapid-fire pace with his eyes closed and with one hand pressed against his face in concentration. A reporter who first interviewed Mr. Bechtolsheim in 1981 while he was still at Stanford, discovered last week that the computer scientist was still clad in Birkenstock sandals and still dressed like a graduate student.
Ola Torudbakken, a Sun engineer who worked for Mr. Bechtolsheim on the Texas supercomputer from his home in Norway, said it was routine to begin exchanging e-mail messages with Sun’s chief architect when it was 5 a.m. in California, then complete their conversations as late as midnight West Coast time when he was starting the next day’s work in Europe.
“I try not to bother him between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. when he is having breakfast with his family,” he said.
Since returning to Sun in 2004, Mr. Bechtolsheim has been appearing in technical settings, speaking about the problems impeding progress in the design of the fastest supercomputers. As supercomputers have shifted from custom processors to machines made from tens of thousands of off-the-shelf microprocessors, the design challenge has become how to permit the processors to share data needed to answer ever more complex scientific and engineering problems. Mr. Bechtolsheim has been critical of some of the biggest machines that have had high performance claims, but have performed poorly in real world applications.
“A lot of these high-end systems are superego machines,” he said, referring to the industry practice of competing for the ranking of the world’s fastest computing mcahine based on a single type of mathematical calculation. Indeed, some of the fastest supercomputers slow to a crawl when they are given types of problems that require the movement of significant amounts of data between processors.
Mr. Bechtolsheim thought he had found a solution to that problem by modifying an industry standard data switch, making it possible for any of the 13,000-plus Advanced Micro Devices Barcelona microprocessors to communicate with each other more than 10 times as fast as with existing switches.
Last April, his description of the breakthrough in a technical speech at an annual retreat of the world’s leading supercomputer designers in Salishan, Ore., raised some eyebrows among the world’s supercomputer designers. “It’s a pretty interesting architecture,” said Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee and one of the researchers who keeps track of the world’s fastest computers. “It shows that Sun is still a player in terms of high- performance computing.”
Like Steve Wozniak, another Silicon Valley computer design luminary, Mr. Bechtolsheim became immersed in the world of computing in high school. According to John Fowler, the executive who runs Sun’s systems business, Mr. Bechtolsheim took a job in a machine shop while in high school in rural Germany. His boss asked him if he could build a system to make it possible to program an advanced milling machine. Mr. Bechtolsheim, constructed a computer and an operating system from scratch to control the machine. He then struck a licensing deal for his system which proved so successful that by the time he graduated from high school he was earning more than his father.
That led him to believe that studying computer science might be a worthy goal, Mr. Fowler said.
Before transferring to Stanford as a graduate student, Mr. Bechtolsheim attended graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University in 1976 where he joined an early project to build a cluster-based supercomputer. Mr. Bechtolsheim literally filed down plastic computer chip packages in order to make them small enough to squeeze into the design of an early system board, recalled Brian Reid, who was a graduate student with him at Carnegie Mellon.
People who know him well say that that persistence underscores his determination as a designer.
Mr. Bechtolsheim’s newest machine will ultimately be tested against his most powerful rival, I.B.M., in the $10 billion market for high-performance computers. I.B.M., based in Armonk, N.Y., now dominates the high end of the fastest computing ranks and expects to maintain that position when the newest Top500 supercomputer rankings are announced today in Dresden.
Indeed, I.B.M. will introduce a redesigned version of its BlueGene supercomputer, to be named BlueGene/P today at the conference, saying that the new machine, scheduled to be installed next year, will finally break the petaflop computing barrier — the ability to execute a thousand trillion mathematical operations a second.
Executives at I.B.M. are skeptical about the new Sun supercomputer, noting that the system is late to be installed. “Having done six generations of machines,” said Dave Turek, the company’s vice president of Deep Computing. “I have come to realize that very little goes right the first time.”
A number of Silicon Valley technologists are, however, betting on Mr. Bechtolsheim. “He’s a perfectionist,” said Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, who worked with Mr. Bechtolsheim beginning in 1983 at Sun. “He works 18 hours a day and he’s very disciplined. Every computer he has built has been the fastest of its generation.”

<p>Andreas Bechtolsheim, el mismo que 26 a&ntilde;os atr&aacute;s integraba el grupo que cre&oacute; Sun Microsystems, acaba de anunciar la &uacute;ltima de sus creaciones: una supercomputadora que llevar&aacute; el nombre de Sun Constellation System y que competir&aacute; por el t&iacute;tulo de la m&aacute;s r&aacute;pida del mundo.</p>
<p>Bechtolsheim, ahora con 51 a&ntilde;os, ya tiene en su haber el dise&ntilde;o una larga serie de computadoras donde fue metiendo un incre&iacute;ble poder de computaci&oacute;n en el espacio m&aacute;s peque&ntilde;o posible. Y a pesar de haberse convertido en una de las personas m&aacute;s ricas del mundo, sigue obsesionado con dise&ntilde;ar computadoras cada vez m&aacute;s potentes. Su nueva m&aacute;quina, que est&aacute; siendo instalada en el Texas Advanced Computing Center de Austin, Texas, es el m&aacute;s acabado ejemplo de su estilo t&eacute;cnico simple y elegante. Se diferencia de otras computadoras armadas con millares de microprocesadores en red gracias a la habilidad de Bechtolsheim para organizar una serie de disciplinas necesarias para crear las m&aacute;s r&aacute;pidas computadoras.</p>
<p>Por eso es uno de los principales candidatos a heredar la corona de Seymour Cray, el famoso dise&ntilde;ador de las computadoras m&aacute;s r&aacute;pidas hasta que se mat&oacute; en un accidente de autos en 1996. Su total dedicaci&oacute;n al dise&ntilde;o de computadores es especialmente notable debido a su riqueza. Fund&oacute; tres empresas exitosas adem&aacute;s de ser uno de los primeros financistas de Google. El cheque inicial de US$ 100.000 que extendi&oacute; a los fundadores de Google Sergey Brin y Larry Page fue una inversi&oacute;n que hoy vale m&aacute;s de US$ 1.500 millones.</p>
<p>Pero esa riqueza no se advierte en este hombre que recibe en un despacho modesto y se pasa las horas hablando de supercomputaci&oacute;n.</p>
<p>Ahora que las computadoras se arman con microprocesadores que est&aacute;n a la venta en los negocios abiertos a todo p&uacute;blico, el desaf&iacute;o en dise&ntilde;o es ver c&oacute;mo se puede lograr que los procesadores compartan los datos que hacen falta para responder a problemas cient&iacute;ficos y t&eacute;cnicos cada vez m&aacute;s complejos.</p>
<p>Bechtolsheim crey&oacute; haber encontrado una soluci&oacute;n a ese problema al modificar un conmutador est&aacute;ndar de datos y hacer posible que cualquiera de los 13.000 o m&aacute;s microprocesadores AMD Barcelona se comuniquen entre s&iacute; a una velocidad 10 veces superior a la de los conmutadores existentes.</p>
<p>Quienes lo conocen dicen que su persistencia completa su decisi&oacute;n como dise&ntilde;ador. Su nueva creaci&oacute;n tendr&aacute; su prueba de fuego contra una IBM, su rival m&aacute;s poderosa en el mercado computadoras de alto desempe&ntilde;o.&nbsp;</p>

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