Baylor Strengthens Research Infrastructure With Addition of HP High-Performance Computing Cluster

Sept. 20, 2007

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

Baylor University will soon add a new high performance computing cluster from Hewlett Packard that will further strengthen Baylor's research computing capabilities to address the growing demand for parallel computing resources.

"High performance computing systems, like this cluster, are just as important for research as the traditional science lab," said Mike Hutcheson, academic and research computing systems manager in the Electronic Library at Baylor.

The addition of the 128-node, 1024-processor-core high performance computing system will provide Baylor researchers with a powerful system for computationally intensive applications, parallel computing applications that require multiple processors, and grid computing with other institutions. The system, which is not limited to any department or any particular type of research, should arrive at Baylor next month. It will reside in the Information Technology Services server facility and is supported by the Academic and Research Computing Services group (ARCS).

"Researchers at Baylor are looking forward to the possibilities that the new high-performance computing cluster will provide," said Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of libraries. "Adding to the university's existing resources, the new HPC will increase collaborative opportunities with peer research institutions. Baylor faculty and students will be able to expand the scope of their research and the university can contribute computing resources to a larger research community."

In fall 2003, Baylor initially purchased a "balanced" 32-node cluster from HP, which allowed system managers and faculty researchers to determine early application needs and plan for the next phase of the cluster. With that information, the university was able to tailor the new computing system, which is theoretically 35 times faster than the current cluster and about 1,000 times faster than a regular personal computer, to better meet research needs. The new cluster should be fully operational by spring 2008.

The new computing cluster will enable the university to participate with other institutions in collaborative research initiatives. The system will be used in various areas of research, including particle physics, biophysical chemistry and astrophysics.

"This latest addition to Baylor's high performance computing capability provides Baylor researchers the computational ability necessary to tackle world-class problems that heretofore would have been impossible to work on at Baylor due to their scope," said Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research at Baylor and director of the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research. "It also makes the university much more attractive to prospective faculty that would not have been able to easily continue their research without such facilities on-site. The cluster expansion also provides Baylor the opportunity to pursue partnerships with other high performance centers around the nation that could greatly benefit the university. Taken together, this is just one more example of 2012 at work."

Among the faculty researchers who will be early users of the system are Dr. Walter Wilcox, professor of physics; Dr. Gouri Jas, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Dr. Ray Nazzario, a member of the CASPER faculty and a senior analyst/programmer with Baylor's Information Technology Services.

Wilcox conducts research in the area elementary particle physics, applying complex mathematical algorithms to better understand the structure of elementary particles. He said with the new computing cluster at Baylor, work that normally would have taken five days to complete, will now take just one day.

"The new high-performance computer will be able to take our research projects from A to Z," Wilcox said. "There is a testing part of our research and a production part. We will now be able to conduct both parts here at Baylor. We do not have to go other places to do it."

Hutcheson said the new cluster consists of 128 compute nodes, each with 16 gigabytes of RAM and two Intel Xeon 5355 quad-core processors for a total of 1,024 processor cores. The nodes will communicate over an Infiniband network, and the system will include a disk storage capacity of 17 terabytes.

Baylor's existing system from 2003 consists of 32 compute nodes, each with four gigabytes of RAM and two Intel Xeon 2.4GHz single-core processors for a total of 64 processor cores. The nodes of the existing system communicate over a gigabit network, and the cluster's disk storage capacity is four terabytes.

"This new cluster is a good stepping stone toward a strong research infrastructure," Hutcheson said.

For more information, contact Hutcheson at (254) 710-4110 or Mike_Hutcheson@baylor.edu.

For more information on the Academic and Research Computing Services group (ARCS) in the Electronic Library, go to www.baylor.edu/lib/factech/arcs.

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