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CHIPS Articles: USJFCOM'S New Supercomputer

USJFCOM'S New Supercomputer
By Robert Pursell, USJFCOM Public Affairs - January-March 2007
The High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) recently assigned a supercomputer to U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) that will enhance experimentation and training efforts in modeling and simulation.

The supercomputer is much larger and more powerful than the machines used today and will yield finer details when it comes to imaging and behavior at a faster speed.

The supercomputer will be operated mostly by the Joint Training Directorate (J7) and Joint Experimentation Directorate (J9), housed in the Joint Training and Experimentation Center and accessed through the Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN).

The DREN is an official Department of Defense network specifically designed for computational research, engineering and testing, and is used to transfer leading network and security technologies and capabilities across the DoD and other federal agencies.

Jim Blank, USJFCOM J9 modeling and simulation division chief, explained the command's plan for using the machine.

"There's been a shift in focus, as you can imagine, from rolling deserts and plains to an urban environment," he said. "You can't model an urban environment without modeling the people. That is the most important part of the city."

Tony Cerri, J9's experimentation engineering department head, gave an example of how the supercomputer will affect a simulation of Baghdad.

"In a city like Baghdad, we can say this would be morning rush hour, all of the sudden 500,000 people get up and go to work. That's not something that we've been able to do very well," Cerri said.

Blank discussed the difference between the horsepower of a regular computer versus a supercomputer and how it impacts each individual item (called an "entity") in the simulations.

"It's fidelity versus scale. Typically, as you've increased the number of entities that you put into a simulation, your resolution of any particular entity has gone down because you just can't support a million entities at a constant level of resolution. Our entities have behaviors associated with them. Now we can maintain the full behavior characteristics of the entity as we scale out to a million," Blank said.

"In a previous life, we ran about 32,000 entities at any given time. That was probably the max that we were capable of. With supercomputers, you can run over one million entities, and we've done it," he added.

Blank said the advantage of having a supercomputer housed at USJFCOM will enhance capability and make development much easier.

USJFCOM accomplished this effort with the help of the University of Southern California Information Science Institute, which played a major part in working with the HPCMP to acquire the supercomputer. USJFCOM was negotiating for about a year before it received the final approval.

"They have significant supercomputer experience, and we worked fairly close with them because of their expertise to keep us smart, engaged and in the right direction," Blank said.

For more information, go to or phone USJFCOM public affairs office at (757) 836-6555.

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