Minutes of the September 18, 2000 Meeting
Smoky Mountain AMS Chapter

The September meeting of AMS Smoky Mountain Chapter was held Sept. 18 at Logan's Roadhouse (201 Cedar Lane, Knoxville) from 6 to 9 P.M. Forrest Hoffman of the Environmental Sciences Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory gave a presentation on the "Stone Soupercomputer" which he has built and maintained at ORNL over the past several years. The following snippet from Forrest's web site gives the basics as to what this innovative project is all about:

"While our first Beowulf-style parallel computer isn't built out of the most impressive hardware, we got tired of fighting for funding and went ahead with what we could find. Much like the classic Tale of Stone Soup, many individuals contributed to the existing machine. Because of a complete lack of funding, we used surplus personal computers donated by individuals from ORNL, the Procurement Dept., Y-12, and K-25, to build a parallel computer system which uses public domain compilers and message passing libraries. This system was built at literally no cost."

The whole tale is very interesting and can be found at: http://stonesoup.esd.ornl.gov/. This site contains links to many articles about the Stone Soupercomputer that have been published in computing periodicals and other media. Forrest’s talk was a very enjoyable time-line of the development of this interesting built-from-scratch system. He covered the initial construction from surplus PCs from various branches of ORNL -“Since this system has a zero cost to performance ratio, we can surmise it has an infinite performance to cost ratio.” Next were descriptions of system operations and applications, including some dramatic modeled scenarios of plant community shifts across the United States induced by global warming. Forrest also covered some of programming procedures that allow for optimum performance of the linked nodes. Though the system has received limited attention from the scientific community at large, it enjoys celebrity status in the popular press. Forrest says there is increasing interest in collaborative efforts using this locally built and maintained resource.

Our next meeting will be November 20th and will feature a resource manager from TVA. We will possibly meet at TVA and view the equipment associated with his job.

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