New Carter cluster is one of the greenest, as well as fastest, in the world

December 01, 2011

Purdue’s new Carter supercomputer ranks 38th on the latest Green500 list of the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world, making it one of the greenest systems as well as one of the world’s most powerful.

Carter placed 54th on the latest TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, announced at the international supercomputing conference SC11 in Seattle Nov. 15.

Built with next-generation technology by a partnership including Purdue, Intel, HP and Mellanox, Carter 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.

Carter is energy efficient because the Intel “Sandy Bridge” microprocessors inside it, which won’t be officially released until next year, provide more computing muscle with fewer processors than prior systems. This makes the new supercomputer less power hungry and easier to cool. The Sandy Bridge chips also include special power saving features.

“The Carter cluster not only provides faculty researchers and their students with computing power they need, it also addresses a major challenge institutions face in providing these kinds of systems to meet faculty demand — the impact of high-performance computing on electrical and cooling infrastructure,” says John Campbell, ITaP’s associate vice president for research computing.

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

The Rosen Center is currently evaluating the system using real-world applications. Experience so far shows Carter can increase application performance up to 70 percent. Purdue researchers studying stem cells as they relate to cancer, hazardous weather prediction, global warming and the tiny devices in future electronics are among those testing Carter.

The cluster will be ready for broad faculty use in the spring of 2012 and should allow campus researchers to do larger, more detailed simulations than previous clusters and to get higher resolution results much faster. Faculty members interested in purchasing capacity in Carter should contact rcac-cluster-purchase@purdue.edu.

Carter is the fifth of Purdue’s community clusters in the last four years to rank among the world’s most powerful, and Purdue has three clusters — Carter, Rossmann and Coates — on the latest TOP500 list, more than any other school in the country.

Started in 2005, the Green500 is an attempt to shift the notion of supercomputer performance from raw speed alone because the systems now consume huge amounts of electrical power and produce so much heat that extravagant cooling facilities must be constructed to ensure proper operation. The Green500 releases three lists per year ranking energy-efficient supercomputers, in November, February and June.

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.

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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