NI in Supercomputing Finals

National Instruments (NI) recently reached the finals of the 2008 Supercomputing Conference Analytics Challenge on the basis of its use of multicore programming in the development of real-time control for the forthcoming European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Currently in the proof-of-concept phase, E-ELT will have a total of five mirrors and be the largest telescope ever created. NI’s task was to work with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to prove the viability of a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution for controlling the two most complex mirrors. The primary active mirror will be 42m in diameter and comprise 984 hexagonal mirror segments, all of which must be in strict alignment continuously. Mirror segment alignment will be maintained by the control system responding to a total of 6000 sensor inputs and sending control signals to 3000 actuators 1000 times per second. NI used LabVIEW to create a highly deterministic hardware-in-the-loop communication network capable of moving 36MB of data per second. The benchmarks achieved included distributing control algorithms on up to eight cores simultaneously and performing a 3,000-by-6,000 matrix-vector multiplication within 0.5ms. The NI team has also worked on the even larger problem of developing control for the telescope’s 2.5m active mirror which will comprise a thin, flexible mirror membrane spread across 8,000 actuators.

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