MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (March 21, 2005)—Silicon Graphics (NYSE: SGI) today announced that The Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at the Ben Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev has acquired a high performance SGI® Altix® 3000 system. The Negev region encompasses about half the land mass of Israel and is home to remarkable landscapes including waterfalls, caves, canyons, archeological sites, cities, and craters The new SGI system will enable researchers at the Institute to identify new mechanisms of change in the biological diversity (vegetation species) of arid areas and examine possible scenarios for the loss of animal and vegetation species as a result of environmental changes and their implications on the stability and function of global ecosystems.
The SGI® system was acquired through research grant money awarded by the James S. McDonnell Foundation to Professor Ehud Meron and Professor Moshe Shachak from the Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics and the Department of Ecology at the Institute for Desert Research.
The studies to be performed using the new SGI system will be based on a mathematical model developed by a research team headed by Professor Ehud Meron. The model, presented in an article published in the Physical Review Letters this year, simulates the development of vegetation patterns of key species (environmental engineers) that create habitats for other species. Environmental change might affect the vegetation patterns of these environmental engineers, which, in turn, might affect the introduction of new species into the system or the disappearance of species.
"The Altix system is a breakthrough for us in terms of running times of single computer simulations as well as the number of simulations that can be run simultaneously. Such computational capability is necessary for the execution of research that involves simulations of large systems with a large number of variables and that requires scanning of a wide range of parameters," said Professor Meron.
The Institute's new SGI® Altix® system powered by 24 Intel® Itanium® 2 processors, with 32GB system memory and running the Linux® operating system, was selected after comparison tests performed with other systems with the help of the Computation Center at the Ben Gurion University. A code for parallel computation, written by Erez Gilad, a doctoral student at the Physics Department working under the supervision of Professor Meron, was run on the systems in the framework of the tests.
"Climatic changes and interferences resulting from human activities are responsible for the intensifying process of habitat destruction and for a drop in the diversity of animal and vegetation species in many ecosystems on earth," Professor Meron explains. "An ecosystem is a complex system that includes a huge number of individuals and it is not always possible to monitor its properties by studying the distinct individuals alone. The collective dynamics of the system's individuals can lead to 'emergent properties,' in other words properties that appear at the system level but do not exist on the individual level, in the sense of 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' In this study, we focus on mechanisms of change in the diversity of vegetation species, which are emergent properties of the ecosystem and which originate in the dynamics of the key vegetative species and the spatial patterns they create. We anticipate that these mechanisms will lead to new and even surprising scenarios of change in the biological diversity as a result of environmental changes."
"Global environmental studies are some of the biggest challenges and most important issues facing the world today and the impact of changing global conditions and survivability in desert conditions are critical in arid areas such as our own," said Shabtai Shaanani, managing director, SGI Israel. "The Institute for Desert Research, one of the leading environmental research institutes in Israel, chose SGI technology to power its leading-edge research center because it offers the performance level unlike any other in the market. We believe this unique combination of SGI technology and environmental research will accelerate research progress, fueling innovation and more meaningful discoveries for scientists and researchers in all aspects of environmental science.
The uniqueness of SGI Altix systems stem from the integration of SGI's third-generation computer architecture NUMAflex™, the advanced 64-bit Intel Itanium 2 processor and a Linux operating system - a combination that constitutes a breakthrough both in terms of price/performance and in virtually every measurable category. Since its introduction in January 2003, the system has been adopted by many research institutions in Israel and throughout the world. The most talked about system to date is the Columbia, comprising 10,240 processors, recently installed at NASA within 120 days. SGI Altix systems are available in server configurations of 4 to 512 processors, and are expandable into a cluster configuration using standard connections.
Science is one the areas that SGI is most active in, both in Israel and throughout the world. The new Altix system installed in the Ben Gurion University's Computation Center joins a series of SGI supercomputers installed at the inter-university computation center at the Tel-Aviv University, the Weizmman Institute of Science, the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology and the Bar-Ilan University, which serve researchers at Israel's various academic institutions.
About Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research
The Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research was founded in Sde-Boker in 1974, as part of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev. The Institute engages in research on all aspects of the desert environment, ranging from desert ecology, environmental physics, desert agriculture, water resources in the desert, utilization of desert resources for technological development in areas of biotechnology and solar energy, through to desert architecture and the study of settlements under desert conditions.
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