Darkstrand Offers Network Access to Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Darkstrand, a startup that is working to commercialize a large part of the federally funded, high-speed optical network National LambdaRail, is teaming with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to give businesses on the Darkstrand Network access to the PSC's high-performance computing systems, storage and expertise. Darkstrand already has a similar agreement with a research facility in California. Darkstrand says its goal is to give large enterprises that have HPC projects aimed at product development the necessary bandwidth to access the computing power and expertise of the nation's top universities and research centers.

Darkstrand, a 3-year-old company looking to link enterprises with academic and research facilities, is teaming up with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to give businesses on the Darkstrand Network access to the supercomputing capabilities at the center.

In the collaboration deal announced May 14, businesses on Darkstrand's network will get real-time access to PSC's HPC (high-performance computing) systems, mass-storage capabilities, application experts and technical consultants.

The agreement with the Pittsburgh center is the latest step in what Darkstrand said is its goal of giving enterprises that are working on HPC projects aimed at product development high-speed access to research and computing resources throughout the country.

"This collaboration will expand the reach of high-performance computing into the corporate environment," PSC Executive Director David Moses said in a statement.

Click here to read about how Sun Microsystems is looking for a greater role in HPC.

In May 2008, Darkstrand won the right to commercialize a large part of the NLR (National LambdaRail), a federally funded high-speed 15,000-mile optical network that connects universities and research facilities in 30 cities throughout the country. The network-connecting a consortium of U.S. universities, scientific institutions and regional networks, and built with technology from Cisco Systems-was created in the 1990s to advance research and applications in such areas as science, engineering and medicine.

Darkstrand's goal is to offer Fortune 500-type businesses the necessary network bandwidth to access and run computing-intensive workloads on HPC systems housed by these facilities. Darkstrand officials have said the Internet, in its current incarnation, was not meant to handle the workloads some of these corporate HPC projects require. The NLR can.

"Darkstrand is launching a new R&D collaboration model for corporate America, in which bandwidth is no longer a constraint on innovation," Darkstrand founder and CEO Michael Stein said in a statement. "From simulation to prototype, insight to market, our work together [with PSC] serves as a turnkey solution tailored to improve our country's competitive advantage."

In April, Darkstrand announced a collaboration with the 9-year-old California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology-aka Calit2-at the University of California, San Diego. Through that agreement, businesses on the Darkstrand Network can work with the technology and experts at Calit2 in such areas as cyber-infrastructure and visualization.

Now businesses on the network will have access to HPC capabilities at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The center operates a number of supercomputers, such as Bigben, which is a Cray XT3 system with 2,068 nodes and 4,136 processors, and Pople, an SGI Altix system with 768 cores and 1.5TB of shared memory.

Salk is another Altix system for biomedical research, and Warhol is a Hewlett-Packard c3000 cluster. There also are machines powered by Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron chips; those computers are used primarily for biomedical research and sequence analysis.

PSC also has software in such areas as computational chemistry, engineering, biomedical databases and material sciences, a massive tape and disk storage system called Golem that has up to 2 petabytes of capacity, and consulting services in the areas of mass storage, visualization, training, network access and networking.