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Sun Microsystems Donation Aids UW Computing Research

October 22, 1997

A donation of high-performance computing equipment from Sun Microsystems to UW–Madison will aid projects to make parallel computing a more powerful research tool.

The Mountain View, California, company donated to the computer science department three parallel processing computers, each with 16 processors that run the Sun Solaris operating environment. These systems will be connected to a fourth one owned by the department.

The gift will boost UW–Madison projects led by computer science professors James Larus, Jeffrey Naughton and 10 others. Mark Hill and David Wood of the computer science faculty also have collaborations with Sun and will benefit from the new technology.

Unlike conventional computers, parallel computers use many processors operating together in a network, giving the system greater power to handle large and complex problems.

“Our collaborations with Sun have brought a new perspective to computer architecture research at UW–Madison,” says Hill. From September 1995 to July 1996, Hill spent a sabbatical working with a Sun engineering team on a parallel systems architecture project. The project led to technical advances that will be making their way into Sun products.

The project led by Larus and Naughton is striving to make computer images a more powerful force in research. Researchers in fields such as genetics, space science and global climate rely heavily on large banks of computer imagery, but they are notoriously difficult to manage.

Naughton says his research team is developing software to help better identify, retrieve and search images. “The goal is to create a system that can manage large collections of images in ways that will allow sophisticated queries,” he says.

The department has been a leader in parallel computing research for more than a decade, says Greg Papadopoulos, vice president and chief technology officer at Sun.

“Sun and UW–Madison computer scientists have had a fruitful collaboration for years,” Papadopoulos says. “Melding this kind of expertise with Sun engineering teams helps Sun bring new technologies to market more quickly.”

When combined, the new computers will deliver power surpassing anything the department currently uses, by having a total of 64 processors working in tandem, Larus says.

Since Sun’s inception in 1982, the company has emerged as a leading provider of hardware, software and services for establishing enterprise-wide intranets and expanding the power of the Internet.

Tags: research