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Annual Report 1978
The Secretary's Department and Central Office Administration provide funds for general SRC facilities. The items funded at the Laboratory include the facilities for general computing, based upon an IBM 360/195 computer system and a network linking over 50 universities and laboratories in this country and overseas centres. The Laboratory is providing reprogramming effort for the Grants and Awards Administration. The Energy Research Support Unit offers service for energy research in universities and polytechnics and the Council Works Unit provides an engineering and building works service to all SRC establishments.
General Computing Facilities
Developments in Computing
The IBM 360/195 computer system, established with dual processors at the Laboratory in 1977, has had an excellent year. Primarily a period of consolidation, the year saw several changes which contributed to a high availability to users of CPU time amounting to nearly 200 hours per week during the third quarter.
Increased use of the remote job entry and file handling system ELECTRIC stimulated several small improvements to enhance the performance of the system; however, the scope for improvement of ELECTRIC on the central computer complex is limited. A Data Editing System, developed and run on a GEC 4080 computer, was brought into use as a public facility during the year. Although there are significant differences of detail, its main objective is to provide an ELECTRIC-like capability for users.
Four new GEC 2050 workstations were installed during the year, bringing the total number of remote stations linked to the IBM 360/195 to 70, and several new communications links were established. The overall hardware performance has been good.
A Terminal Switching System (TSS), developed and brought into use in the first half of the year, provides access to more than one computer from a single terminal by use of keyboard selection procedures. Currently at the Rutherford Laboratory, terminals connected to TSS afford access to ELECTRIC, the Data Editing System GEC 4080 computer, the Interactive Computing Facility's (ICF) local Multi-User Minicomputers, and the ICF DEC System 10 computer network through the DN82 node.
Use of the computer network linking the Daresbury and Rutherford Laboratories increased significantly during the year. Late in the year the Post Office announced a new public Packet-Switched Service (PSS) using X25 protocols to replace the earlier Experimental Packet-Switched Service (EPSS) in 1980. The change has long been expected and local preparation has gone ahead throughout the year. the Laboratory took part in June in the EPSS Open Day to demonstrate the use of computer networks.
The ICL 1906A computer, which had been in service since the autumn of 1971, was switched off on 31 March 1978 in accordance with the SRC's overall plan for computing announced in 1976. It had provided in all nearly 20,O00 hours of computing time to about 1,000 users, on numerous projects. The machine performance was good throughout the January-March period, with an increase in CPU hours; as users hurried to complete work or transfer it to the IBM computer system .
The IBM 360/195 System
The layout of the dual 360/195 computer system is shown in Fig 5.1. On-line programs such as HASP and ELECTRIC are run in the front-end machine (FEM) with some batch processing jobs, leaving the back-end machine (BEM) for most of the batch processing. When either machine is out of action because of faults or scheduled maintenance, the system is designed to provide FEM facilities at the other so that, for example, ELECTRIC users can continue working.
Fig 5.1 The layout of the IBM 360/195 computer system.
Over 9,300 hours of CPU time were accounted to users in the year, and system overheads took a further 1,789 hours. The backlog of jobs was usually cleared at weekends, and the flow of work was controlled by the locally-written COPPER system, which monitors and limits time at different priority levels in accordance with allocations by the Facility Committee for Computing. Machine availability at 96.9% was not quite as high as expected. Work on th operating system software during the year produced very good overall performance. Fuller details of the computer usage are given in Table 5.1.
A string-switching system was installed in May so that both central processors can now access both sets of IBM discs by either of two disc control units. This change improved channel utilisation and made processing less vulnerable to faults on the control units. A new selector channel was added to improve I/O for the FEM. Other hardware additions included extra operator consoles and the attachment of two more 6250 bpi tape drives.
The number of magnetic tapes and disc packs stored in the vicinity of the computer has grown to such an extent that an automatic system for handling and storage became necessary. The Tape and Disc Management System (TDMS) was introduced in February, initially to catalogue all tapes and discs in use. In April TDMS was interfaced with the SETUP system, which provides advanced information of data set requirements and allocates volumes to drives automatically (by scanning the job-queue). The LOCAL library, located close to the computer, contains about 4,000 tapes out of some 30,000 catalogued. A job requesting a tape which is not in the library is automatically held until the tape is brought in. System messages with the output for each job now provide the users with measures of disc and tape activity, as well as CPU time and amount of core actually used; work is in hand to give users access to the TDMS files for information about their tapes.
The latest release of the IBM operating system software (OS 21.8F) was installed in December. It supports additional tape drives and is a pre-requisite for the new software necessary to support the extra 3350-type discs due in 1979.
The ELECTRIC system on the IBM 360/195 computer for file-handling and remote job entry has remained under heavy pressure, with around 80% of all jobs submitted by this means. Methods of monitoring performance have been refined and extended, and changes to ELECTRIC introduced where a significant improvement could be achieved. A major improvement came with the introduction of hardware for string-switching on the disc control units, and further benefit was obtained by reducing I/O at the main file store. By moving the text layout processing from within ELECTRIC to the output program submitted by the PRINT command, the overheads on layout processing during file printing have been significantly reduced. The number of simultaneous users allowed was increased from 50 to 55 in October.
Shortage of space in the ELECTRIC on-line file store has been acute during the year. A second level of archived filespace was introduced on a separate disc with overnight file restoration. The free space in the on-line file store became so small in June that all files unused for 6 months were archived automatically to the first level, thereby releasing 23,000 blocks of on-line space.
Apart from new commands and abbreviations, some other changes were introduced to benefit users. Operations which involve copying one file into another are now inter-leaved, instead of being queued and processed sequentially. A log-in queue with 8 slots has been introduced for use when all the ELECTRIC slots are taken. The user at the head of the queue is given the first slot becoming vacant. A logged-in user can now transfer from any terminal to another, for example from a visual display unit to a graphics terminal, without surrendering his ELECTRIC slot.
FR80 Film Recorder
A 9-track 800 bpi tape drive was added early in the year so that tapes from the Interactive Computing Facility machines can now be input directly. An extra 16K of store (making a total of 32K) has also been added, and a matching release of the manufacturer's software for print programs has been tested satisfactorily. A new release of corresponding graphics software is unlikely to be utilised because of the numerous local modifications required. Available effort is being put into local graphics driving software for the FR80. A summary of the usage of the FR80 film recorder is given in Table 5.1. There was a slight overall reduction to 1,569 hours in recording time, but colour work more than doubled to 290 hours. A new type of hardcopy paper came into general use in September, giving increased contrast and resolution at lower cost and allowing direct production of offset plates for printing.
Table 5.1. Computer Facility Usage by Funding Authorities
|IBM 360/195 SYSTEM||FR80 FILM RECORDER|
|Jobs||%||CPU Hrs||%||Recording Hrs||%|
|Nuclear Physics Board||351,364||46||6,369||68||214||14|
|Astronomy, Space and Radio Board||72,915||10||513||6||372||24|
|SRC Central Office||142,181||18||325||3||137||9|
|Other Research Councils||66,389||9||248||3||68||4|
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The GEC 4080 Computers
Three GEC 4080 computers have been operated throughout the year, including one now used as a packet switch on the SRC network. The second was in steady use for patch-up and control of scanning tables for bubble chamber research and for circuit board design. Most software developments have been carried out on the third machine, including the major work for the Data Editing System, and work on the X25 network software before installation on the packet switch 4080.
The DOS operating system was phased out early in the year and version 2.3 of the OS4000 system (also supplied by GEC, with local additions) is now used. A link-editor suitable for large programs was supplied by the manufacturer. Hardware and system software have proved generally reliable.
A prototype Data Editing System was introduced (on the third GEC 4080 computer) in April and a public system made available to the Laboratory's main site users in July shortly after the computer was moved to the Atlas Building. A user community was quickly established, numbering 45 by the end of the year, when in a typical week 35 different users logged-in for 670 work sessions. Developments for the new system included improved file transfer and job submission and retrieval facilities between the IBM 360/195 and GEC 4080 computers; and provision of a job status command allowing interrogation of the GEC 4080 about jobs on the IBM 360/195. There are now 14 ports available to users for accessing the system. The accounting program JOURNAL, written for the Interactive Computing Facility's GEC 4070, was installed for monitoring purposes.
The GEROFF text processing program (based on the Bell Telephone Laboratories ROFF program) was implemented on a GEC 4080 and several developments made to facilitate the transfer of text processing from other systems and the production of documents. GEROFF is also available on the Interactive Computing Facility's GEC 4070.
Sections of a Network Control Program have been written (currently on the Interactive Computing Facility's GEC 4070) for interfacing a GEC 4080 to the SRC Network, and preliminary software has been written for the STELLA project using special shells incorporated into the Data Editing System.
The graphics software available on the IBM 360/195 system has been overhauled during the past eighteen months. The main effort was directed towards a common software system that would allow the three major graphics packages used at the Laboratory - SMOG, MUGWUMP and GINO-F - to access all graphics devices connected to the IBM 360/ 195. The new system, called IMPACT, was released to some users in December. It is smaller and faster than the previous software despite its additional features. A drawing program (DRAFT) has been developed which will accept commands in an easy format and is intended to simplify the production of diagrams and illustrations for reports and manuals.
The FR80 microfilm recorder was used to prepare the main part of a book: Vol 9 of the series Molecular Structures and Dimensions, Bibliography 1976-77, Organic and Organometallic Crystal Structures. The book contains 4,012 entries arranged in 86 chemical classes with 2,011 cross-reference entries; there are 6 different indexes listed on 470 pages. The crystal drawing program PLUTO was used on the PRIME 400 computer to prepare pages containing both the bibliographic entries and structure diagrams.
Work has continued on converting the index-making program to be available for more general text. In addition, a character drawing package containing several fonts, with the ability to draw subscripts, superscripts, Greek and mathematical characters, has been mounted on both the PRIME 400 and IBM 360/195 computers. The package has been incorporated into the slide-making program on the IBM 360/195 computer, and is used on the PRIME 400 as part of a program to prepare the front covers of Laboratory reports by means of the FR80 recorder.
An instruction manual has been produced for the Rutherford Laboratory Library for maintaining the computerised reference catalogue. A copy of the program has also been tested by the Library staff at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, who plan to use the same procedures for their catalogue.
Two general facilities have recently been set up. The first is an archive procedure which, when tested with bibliographic material from the Nimrod records, produced several computer-sorted indexes. The second is a program, initially implemented in ELECTRIC, to produce address labels for the distribution of the Annual Report. This is now available on the Data Editing System.
The Need for a Network
Many users of SRC computers are based outside its Laboratory sites. By 1974, computing systems set up at each of the SRC Laboratories (Rutherford, Daresbury, and Atlas at that time) were available to external users through workstations and terminals linked to an individual system. However, since a single university department might contain users of more than one of these independent systems, it would be advantageous if workstations could provide access to several "host" computers. A network linking the major computers (IBM 360/195, IBM 370/165 and ICL 1906A, respectively) was therefore established, based on packet-switching techniques and compatible with the Experimental Packet-Switched Service (EPSS) then being developed by the Post Office. This choice permitted the use of the public network (when it became available) for data transmission, once the SRC network was linked.
The Post Office declared EPSS open for public use in April 1977, but has recently announced that the public network will change over to a new Packet-Switched Service (PSS) in January 1980. The PSS is based on the X25 international standard packet protocols. This change was expected, and suitable software has been prepared locally: for example, the Network Control Program in the IBM 360/195 will currently accept both EPSS and X25 call level protocols, so that the SRC network can be used with the old system while the new is being tested. The main features of the SRC network are outlined in Fig 5.2. There are two exchanges (a dedicated GEC 4080 at the Rutherford Laboratory and multi-PDP 11s at the Daresbury Laboratory) and two host computers (IBM 360/195 and 370/165), with about ten RJE stations attached as indicated. A reasonable level of performance and reliability has been achieved, so that some 2,000 network calls are now handled by the IBM 360/195 installation in a typical week, using about 500,000 packets averaging 100 bytes each. There are also links to the US ARPANET and to the CERN Laboratory in Geneva.
Fig 5.2 The main network connections to the Rutherford Laboratory computers.
After the ICL 1906A computer was removed, there were two main areas of work on the Daresbury-Rutherford network this year. A major effort was made to improve performance and reliability, particularly for speeding up output on remote lineprinters and making terminal calls less vulnerable to transient network faults or delays. Several remote workstations connected to the network via a gate way computer system at Daresbury Laboratory are not supported by the production system. The network packet protocol has been converted to X25. Software in the GEC 4080 nodal processor was completely re-written to use X25 so that the machine now functions purely as a packet switch. The IBM 360/195 contains X25 software alongside the old EPSS-compatible protocol, and X25 software for GEC 2050 workstations has recently been completed.
Early in November the local GEC 2050 workstation in the Atlas Building became operational with X25, and the first remote X25 GEC 2050 station was established early in December at Southampton. These two workstations are connected to the GEC 4080 packet switch and thence to both the IBM 360/195 and the Daresbury Laboratory system. More workstations are expected to be converted to network operation in 1979 and connected via the GEC 4080 computer.
X25 software is being installed at Daresbury Laboratory and, until it is fully operational, the network will run partly with EPSS-compatible and partly with X25 protocols. The Post Office continues to operate its EPSS system, to which the IBM 360/195 is connected, but it is expected to cease in 1980.
An EPSS Open Day was held in June to demonstrate to a wider public the flexibility of computer networks and the considerable amount of progress made in this technology. The Laboratory acted as one of five Open Centres and gave five externally-based exhibitors access to their home bases via EPSS. The exhibitors' visual display units were connected, via a normal GEC 2050 workstation at the Laboratory, to the IBM 360/195 and thence by private line to the London EPSS exchange, thus showing that all terminals with access to the IBM 360/195 can in principle access any other host computer on a public network. Alternative access to EPSS was provided via the Interactive Computing Facility's GEC 4070. This back-up service was used for a period during the Open Day when problems arose in the IBM 360/195, thereby demonstrating the flexibility provided by network-type connections. There were also demonstrations of engineering graphics in the Interactive Computing Facility's computer which was accessed across EPSS from University College London and from Glasgow University.
The STELLA Project
The Laboratory has been involved for some time in studies for a European fast data transmission network and processing system, and a discussion meeting was held at Chilton in July 1976. Lack of information on user requirements for distributed data processing systems, and particularly for public data transmission services, has been a weak link in efforts to establish a technical policy. There is a large, scattered population of potential users with a wide range of experience, knowledge and perception of future needs.
In 1975 the Commission of the European Communities proposed to sponsor experiments involving the European Informatics Network, the European Space Agency prototype satellite OTS, some national laboratories and the CERN Laboratory. There are several hundred particle physicists, often working at CERN and processing data there or at home, who are sophisticated users and therefore well equipped to provide valuable guidance on possible future public services. These users are being offered the chance to tryout wide-band data transmission facilities in a working environment through the STELLA project (Satellite Transmission Experiment Linking Laboratories).
Current STELLA planning includes linking the Laboratories at CERN, DESY, Pisa, Rutherford and Saclay via their associated computer centres. The orbital test satellite (OTS) was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral in May 1978 and is now in a geostationary orbit (see Fig.5.3).
The Department of Industry is funding a small ground station at the Rutherford Laboratory consisting of a 3m diameter dish aerial which will be linked to an existing GEC 4080 computer. The dish is being built by Marconi Communication Systems Ltd and will be installed on top of Building R27 in September 1979. Responsibility for the hardware and software required to drive the various Earth stations is being shared amongst the participants. The Laboratory has taken responsibility for the software to be used in the link-driving computer. Physicists working at CERN will be able to transmit their data via the OTS at 1 megabit per second to the Chilton site, and enter processing jobs from their local workstation to run on the IBM 360/195 computer.
SRC Grants and Awards Administration
The conversion of the SRC computer-assisted grants administration system has been progressing steadily throughout 1978. The original date for going live proved over-optimistic and has been revised to be early in 1979. The chief cause of delay proved to be the considerable complexity of the ICL 1906A batch system which had been evolving continuously since its conception in 1972 and the subtleties which were only discovered as the conversion reached an advanced stage. In the meantime, the batch systems were moved to the ICL 1906S computer at Sheffield University with links to workstations at the SRC's offices in London and Swindon.
The ICL 2904 computer (see Fig 5.4) took the full load of test production and development in April, when the ICL 1906A computer was closed down. Apart from relatively minor faults on the peripherals, the hardware has worked very reliably. The resilience of the machine was demonstrated by its ability to behave faultlessly during data conversion runs of 11 and 13 hours duration. In November, the workstation and visual display units were moved to the Central Office at Swindon where they continue to operate satisfactorily.
The bulk of the software reached an operational standard in October when parallel running, first on ASR Board data and then on the full system, was commenced. The results were compared with those from the batch system and corrections to the ICL 2904 system implemented where necessary. The remaining task is to re-implement some 60 report programs to ensure continuity of service for the Central Office users.
A number of enhancements to the ICL 2904 system have been requested and are in the planning stage. They include the subject classification of grants, automatic indexing to allow for inflation and the recording of rejected claims.
The final stages of the student awards batch system on the ICL 1906S computer (implemented by contract staff at London Office) was accepted in the middle of the year. It was decided not to convert this system to run on the ICL 2904, but to implement a new system more in line with that machine's capability and the users' requirements. A working party to specify the new system is to be set up and work will commence in 1979.