New Carter community cluster will be available to faculty in the spring

November 29, 2011

A new cutting-edge research supercomputing cluster will be available for use by Purdue faculty and their students in the spring of 2012 and should allow campus researchers to tackle larger problems and get more detailed results faster than ever before.

ITaP partnered with Intel, HP and Mellanox to build the new cluster, nicknamed "Carter." The supercomputer is ranked 54th on the latest TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers and is among the half dozen most powerful machines at U.S. academic institutions. It is the most powerful on a U.S. campus where the research computing facilities are not part of a federally funded laboratory.

The new Carter cluster will be part of Purdue’s award-winning Community Cluster Program, a cooperative program in which faculty members pool research funds to purchase computing resources in partnership with ITaP and its Rosen Center for Advanced Computing.

ITaP is currently completing the final testing and benchmarking of the system in preparation for full production. Experience so far shows Carter can increase application performance up to 70 percent compared to current generation processors. The cluster should allow researchers studying topics ranging from global climate change to stem cells as they relate to cancer to do larger, more detailed simulations than previous clusters and to get higher resolution results much faster.

Faculty members interested in purchasing capacity in the Carter cluster should contact rcac-cluster-purchase@purdue.edu.

“The Carter cluster offers Purdue faculty access to the latest computing technology well 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.”

The cluster was built using the latest technologies from Intel, HP and Mellanox, including not-yet-released Xeon E-5 "Sandy Bridge" Intel processors and HP ProLiant servers. Carter features 648 HP compute nodes with two 8-core Intel processors (16 cores per node), 32 GB of memory and a 500 GB system disk. All nodes have 56 Gbps Infiniband connections and a 5-year warranty.

Carter is named for Dennis Carter, a Purdue alumnus who earned his master's degree in electrical engineering in 1974. A retired Intel vice president, Carter was responsible for developing the innovative "Intel Inside" marketing campaign.

At nearly 187 teraflops capacity, this is the fifth of Purdue’s community clusters to be internationally ranked in the last four years, and Purdue has three clusters — Carter, Rossmann and Coates — on the latest TOP500 list, more than any other school in the country.

The TOP500 Supercomputer Sites project has been ranking the 500 most powerful known systems twice a year since 1993 as a way of detecting and tracking trends in high-performance computing. Rossmann and Coates placed 208th and 474th on the latest list.

The new Hansen cluster, activated in September, was not benchmarked in time for the November list, but would rank 298th. Faculty can still purchase capacity in Hansen by visiting http://www.rcac.purdue.edu/order.

Through community clustering, faculty partners and ITaP make more computing power available for Purdue research projects than faculty and campus units could afford individually. The Rosen Center for Advanced Computing installs, administers and maintains the community clusters, including security, software installation 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 among the faculty partners whenever it is idle. Researchers always have ready access to the capacity they purchase, and potentially more if they need it.

For more information on the Carter cluster see the Rosen Center’s Carter website and this Purdue news release. For more information on Hansen visit the Hansen cluster website.

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

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