New Carter community cluster is fully operational, capacity available

April 02, 2012

Alina Alexeenko thinks Purdue’s new Carter community cluster should give her lab a lot more computing power to study rarified gas flow problems — which can span topics from spacecraft exhaust plumes to tiny micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS, devices — at half the cost of some high-end servers she uses.

Carter is now fully operational and available to any Purdue researcher or research group. More details are available on the Carter cluster information website. To order, visit the Carter cluster order website.

Alexeenko, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and her students have tested Carter with simulations involving the effects of particles in the atmosphere after a large meteor strike and the vacuum systems used to remove water from pharmaceuticals developed in solution to stabilize them for life on the shelf.

“The results have been encouraging,” says Alexeenko, who uses the Coates and Hansen community clusters in addition to her servers. “Basically, it’s about three times faster than what we have now.”

Carter ranked 54th on the latest TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers and was among the half dozen most powerful machines at U.S. academic institutions. It was the most powerful on a U.S. campus where the research computing facilities are not part of a federally funded laboratory.

The new cluster features HP compute nodes with two eight-core Intel Xeon E-5 “Sandy Bridge” processors, 16 cores per node, 32 gigabytes of RAM, a 500 GB system disk and 56 gigabits per second InfiniBand interconnects.

Other Purdue faculty researchers who have been testing Carter also report that it can speed up the time to results for many research applications and enable more complex simulations.

Alan Qi, assistant professor in computer science, statistics and biology, has been using Carter to identify stem cells that might be important in cancer's development and treatment.

“Carter allows us to analyze the data by new advanced statistical models and to have more accurate results in a couple of hours," Qi says.

Purdue partnered with Intel, HP and Mellanox, which makes the fast networking system tying Carter together, to build the new cluster with next-generation components that have yet to become widely available.

“The Carter cluster offers Purdue faculty access to the latest computing technology before most of their colleagues at other institutions,” says John Campbell, ITaP’s associate vice president for research computing. “Carter also will provide the same reliable service as the other community clusters — and more computing power for the dollar invested by faculty partners.”

Through the Community Cluster Program, ITaP pools internal and external funds to make more computing power available for Purdue research projects than faculty and campus units could afford individually. Carter joins four other community clusters built at Purdue since 2008, which have delivered more than a half billion research computing hours to faculty and their students.

ITaP’s Rosen Center for Advanced Computing installs, administers and maintains the community cluster systems, including security and user support, so researchers can concentrate on doing research rather than on running a high-performance computing system.

Community clustering also maximizes the use of resources by sharing computing power researchers use only part of the time with their peers, who can make use of it during what might otherwise be idle time. Faculty partners always have ready access to the computing power they purchase, and potentially more if they need it.

The Carter cluster is named for former Intel vice president Dennis Carter, who earned his master's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1974. Carter developed the innovative "Intel Inside" marketing campaign.

Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8167 (office), 765-426-8545 (mobile), gkline@purdue.edu

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