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NASA probe to study the mysterious confines of solar system

Posted by Sunny

NASA has launched a probe into orbit high above the earth to study the distant edge of the solar system where hot solar winds crash into the cold outer space.

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) was launched at 17-45 GMT on Sunday, according to images broadcast live by the U.S. space agency.

The small probe was deployed on a Pegasus rocket which dropped from the bay doors of a Lockheed L-1011 jet flying at 12,000 metres over the southern Pacific Ocean near the Marshall Islands.

“The count went really smooth… and everything appears to be going well,” NASA assistant launch manager Omar Baez said shortly after the launch.
The IBEX is on a two-year mission to take pictures and chart the mysterious confines of the solar system — including areas billions of kilometres from earth.

Remote region

The small, stop-sign-shaped probe is equipped with instruments that will allow it to take images and chart, for the first time, a remote region known as the interstellar boundary, where the solar system meets interstellar space. The area is a vast expanse of turbulent gas and twisting magnetic fields.

“The interstellar boundary regions are critical because they shield us from the vast majority of dangerous galactic cosmic rays, which otherwise would penetrate into earth’s orbit and make human spaceflight much more dangerous,” David McComas, IBEX principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, said.

The only information that scientists have of this distant region is from the twin Voyager 1 and 2 probes, launched in 1977 and still in service today.

The two probes have travelled past the inner solar system, where the planets are, and on their way to its farthest edge.

In December 2004 Voyager 1 reached an area that scientists describe as the “termination shock” zone, where solar winds crash into the gas of interstellar space, marking the boundary of the solar system.


“The Voyager spacecraft are making fascinating observations of the local conditions at two points beyond the termination shock that show totally unexpected results and challenge many of our notions about this important region,” said Mr. McComas.

In 2007 Voyager 2 reached the heliosheath — the area where the termination shock begins — and on its current path and speed, should reach the heliopause in 2010. The heliopause constitutes the boundary between solar winds and interstellar winds.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) remains in regular contact with the two probes, which return data recorded by their particle detectors.

By 2020, however, contact with Voyager probes will be lost because of the weakening of their plutonium generators.

Revealing images

IBEX, armed with two very large aperture single pixel “cameras” that measure energetic neutral atoms, is to produce images of the region that will allow scientists for the first time to better understand what happens where the solar system meets the galaxy.

The mission will also study cosmic radiation, which has a negative impact on human health and space exploration. The IBEX probe weighs about 462 kg and is shaped like an octagon. It measures a mere 52 cm high and 97 cm across.

The Pegasus put the IBEX in a low orbit some 96 km above the earth. The IBEX spacecraft’s own solid rocket motor will then carry the probe into a much higher altitude orbit of around 200,000 miles, NASA said in a statement.

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Intel India Unleashes Xeon 7400 Processor (Dunnington Processor)

Posted by Sunny

Intel has rolled out its first chip with six brains, unveiling a "multi-core" microprocessor that boosts computing muscle while cutting back on electricity use. The new Xeon 7400 series microprocessor has been designed by none other than Intel engineers at Bangalore from scratch.

The Bangalore design centre is the first Intel team outside the US to complete the design of a 45-nanometer processor.

Post its inception in 2001, the Xeon 7400 series is the first chip to come out of Intel's Bangalore design centre. The centre had previously worked on another Xeon server chip called Whitefield.

But that chip never made it to market. It was cancelled in 2005, when Intel revised its product road maps to better compete with Advanced Micro Devices, and the Indian design team soon put its focus on Dunnington.

The Dunnington chip design marks a technical milestone for Intel, as it uses a monolithic die, the term engineers use to describe putting all of the cores on a single piece of silicon.

Intel's existing quad-core processor lines use two pieces of silicon, each with two cores, packaged together. That approach made the older quad-core chips easier to produce and avoided the manufacturing difficulties that hampered the release of AMD's Barcelona chip, an x86 server chip with four cores on a single piece of silicon. Those difficulties were compounded by AMD's transition to a new 65-nanometer manufacturing process.

The giant chipmaker has clarified that they have no intention to create virtual bridge between Intel and AMD by introducing the first of it’s kind 6-core x86 microprocessor Xeon 7400 from it’s India’s off-shore unit. The newly introduced Intel microprocessor is powered with six processing cores with each of it’s chip. Designed by 1.9 billion transistors, the Xeon 7400 will support shared cache memory in the tune of 16 MB.

Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Unisys and Fujitsu are among the computer
makers building the new Xeon 7400 chips into servers designed for
business networks, according to Intel.

With the introduction of Dunnington, and the upcoming Nehalem line of quad-core processors that also uses a monolithic design, Intel waited until its 45-nanometer process was in mass production, with any technical difficulties presumably ironed out, before making this transition.

After successful launching of the new chip, India has entered in the list of exclusive countries that have high expertise and infrastructure to design and fabricate such a complex microprocessor. Entire design operation of the chip, including it’s front-end and back-end design, pre-silicon logic validation etc., has been performed by about 300 people at the Bangalore unit of Intel. “The quality of available talent, technology ecosystem and business potential are factors which make India a strategic business site for Intel,” says Intel India president Mr. Praveen Vishakantaiah.

The new Intel processor, Xeon 7400 series, is highly compatible with the Intel Xeon 7300 series and the Intel 7300 chipset.

With availability of the new Intel Xeon 7400 processors, VMware customers will now be able to move freely between two servers running on different Intel chips. Earlier, people had to use same type of Intel chips on two servers to allow vMotion to work, but now no such limitation exists.

The Xeon 7400 series is priced between $856 (Rs39,279) and $2729 (about Rs1.09 lakh), the company said

Intel executives say the Xeon 7400 is part of an "incremental migration" toward chips with limitless numbers of "cores" that seamlessly and efficiently share demanding computer processing tasks.

Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices have two-core and four-core chips on the market. The six-core chip delivers 50 per cent more performance than its quad-core predecessor while using 10 per cent less electric power, according to Intel enterprise group vice president Tom Kilroy.

Electricity and cooling expenses can account for nearly half the cost of running company computer servers.

"It isn't just performance and energy efficiency but the use models," Kilroy said of the boon promised by increasingly powerful chips. "One of the major ones is virtualisation."

Multi-core chips are boons to computing trends including high-definition video viewing online; businesses offering services applications on the Internet; and single servers running many "virtual" machines.

Product brief: Intel® Xeon® processor 7400 series (PDF 478KB)


Intel executive VP, Pat Gelsinger announcing world record performance results for XEON 7400-series processors. Industry first 1.2 million database tranactions per minute on 8 slot IBM server.

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EKA - The Fastest SuperComputer in Asia

Posted by Sunny

India has surprisingly broken into the Top Ten in a much-fancied twice-yearly list of the fastest supercomputers in the world, marking a giant leap in its push towards becoming a global IT power.

EKA (the Sanskrit name for number one) is a supercomputer ranked as the 8th fastest in the world and fastest in Asia as of June 2008, according to the Top 500 Supercomputer list built by Hewlett-Packard.

The supercomputer built at the Computational Research Laboratories (CRL) by Hewlett-Packard facility at Pune, India, marked a milestone in the Tata Group's effort to build an indigenous high-performance computing solution. CRL built the supercomputer facility using dense data centre layout and novel network routing and parallel processing library technologies developed by its scientists. It was reported to have cost $30 million dollars to build.

Ashwin Nanda, who heads the CRL, told the conference that its supercomputer had been built with HP servers using Intel chips with a total of 14,240 processor cores. The system went operational last month and achieved a performance of 117.9 teraflops.

It is the first supercomputer to have been developed totally by a corporation without any government help, now shares the rarefied heights of supercomputing with two American and one German supercomputer.

Eka is an important milestone because it almost restarts the train of supercomputing in India, which stalled after the PARAM supercomputers developed by the C-DAC. “It is a team effort rather than an individual’s effort. This has put India on the world map and brought a national sense of pride,” said S Ramadorai, chairman, CRL, and also the CEO of India’s largest software firm, TCS. TCS is a key partner in the entire supercomputer project.

The project was also important because it was done with a small work-force and with global partners like Hewlett Packard, Intel and Mellanox. But the most noteworthy achievement of the team was that it finished the project in time even after CRL lost its technical spearhead, Dr Narendra Karmarkar.

  • System Name: EKA
  • Site: Computational Research Laboratories, TATA SONS
  • System Family: HP Cluster Platform 3000BL
  • System Model: Cluster Platform 3000 BL460c
  • Computer: Cluster Platform 3000 BL460c, Xeon 53xx 3GHz, Infiniband
  • Vendor: Hewlett-Packard
  • Application area: Not Specified
  • Installation Year: 2007
  • Operating System: Linux
  • Interconnect: Infiniband DDR
  • Processor: Intel EM64T Xeon 53xx (Clovertown) 3000 MHz (12 GFlops)
For more comprehensive details click here

Proposed Applications:

Supercomputers are typically used for highly calculation problem solving in quantum mechanical physics, molecular modeling, weather forecasting and climate research, and physical simulation including that of nuclear tests.

The term supercomputer is quite relative. It was first used in 1929 to refer to large custom-built tabulators IBM made for Columbia University. The supercomputers of the 1970s are today's desktops.

"The supercomputer system will have a direct effect on the lives of Indians, espcially in areas such as earthquake and Tsunami modelling, modellings of the economy and potential for drug design," said Mr S. Ramadorai, chairman of the Computational Research Laboratories, which is a subsidiary of Indian firm Tata.

Having developed the machine, the Tata group is busy developing a marketing strategy for it. “In another six-nine months, we would be able to build applications and a software library, following which we would take the offering to commercial use,” Raju Bhinge, chief executive, Tata Strategic Management Group — a Tata Group company involved in the development of the facility in Pune told ET. CRL’s capabilities are currently being used by another Tata Group company, Tata Elixsi for high speed animation rendering work. CRL is also looking at newer opportunities in the weather forecasting, automotive crash simulation, computational fluid dynamics in aerospace sector, gaming and animation and drug discovery among many others.

According to company officials, CRL has already been in touch with the likes of Boeing and Airbus for its aerospace applications and there is also interest from Tata Motors for its crash testing application. S Ramadorai, CEO & MD of TCS one of the partners for CRL and chairman of CRL said that the company was also in discussion with a host of government agencies as well, for the use of its new computing prowess.

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