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Cray Time Available to Students

By Rahul T. Rao
The MIT Supercomputer Facility and Information Systems are offering free supercomputer access in the Athena environment. Users can use a Cray X-MP EA/464 for up to 15 minutes a day.

MIT has alloted 25 percent of the Cray's use for educational purposes, MITSF Administrative Staff Eddie Andrews said. The cost of a research account, which is normally $30 per hour, is offset by a grant from Cray Research Inc., he added.

Users can access the Cray from Athena through the Transparent Computing Model, which translates standard Athena commands to their proper form on the Cray, according to Jim Purdon, a visiting analyst from Cray Research. TCM is Unix-based and can be started from any workstation running the X Window System.

At present, over 25 software packages are on the Cray. They include graphics packages for rendering and image processing and various mathematics packages, including Matlab and Maple. Simulation software for circuits, structures, fluids, and heat transfer, and several computational chemistry packages are also available. In addition C, FORTRAN, and Pascal compilers can also run on the Cray.

Cray time has been available since this February. Over 300 people have accessed the Cray, and this number is increasing by about 30 users every month. Most Cray use has been for running C and FORTRAN code. Matlab, Maple, and Necton, a fluid dynamics program, have been the most used software packages, according to Purdon.

Oulfemi G. Anthony '94 said that although the Cray is a valuable resource for his UROP work, he wished the time limit was more flexible. "One hour a week would be much more productive than fifteen minutes a day," he said.

A few professors have shown interest in creating course-specific software packages for the Cray, Andrews said. However, only about 90 people can access the Cray simultaneously, which might limit the Cray's suitability for classes, Purdon added.