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SLAC Adds Second Black Box

Growing demand for computing power spurred the decision to obtain a second Sun Microsystems Blackbox at SLAC. To meet significant amounts of streaming data from ATLAS and GLAST simulation and mock data challenges, as well as BaBar's final data, a second Blackbox has been secured adjacent to the first one, installed last year behind the electrical substation at Building 50.

The largely self-contained data center is an efficient way to boost SLAC's overall computing capacity and is quicker and easier than building additional building space.

"We needed the additional capacity this year," Scientific Computing and Commuting Services (SCCS) Assistant Director Chuck Boeheim said. "With the first Blackbox working out very well, we invested in a second to meet increasing need."

Unlike the first Black Box, this time SLAC employees bought the computers separately and installed the 262 processing units themselves. This decision saved a significant amount of money.

"Typically somebody will submit hundreds of jobs to our systems," Boeheim explained. "At any time there are 4,0005,000 jobs in execution with backlogs of thousands more."

With the upgrade, scientists can run 1,048 more jobs simultaneously—each job being equivalent to the run of a program with a given set of input data.

SCCS plans to complete the electrical hookups to the Blackbox on April 15. The computers will go into operation later in the month after software installation, configuration and testing are completed.

Matt Cunningham, SLAC Today, April 2, 2008

Above image: A second Blackbox was recently added to expand on SLAC's computational power. (Click image for larger version.)