Purdue team learns from Bandwidth challenge at supercomputing conference

December 2, 2008

A team of staff members from Purdue’s Rosen Center for Advanced Computing learned some things likely to come in handy from competing in the Bandwidth Challenge at SuperComputing ’08, the world’s premier high performance computing conference.

Purdue was one of six finalists among an international collection of entries. University of Illinois-Chicago won the competition at the conference, known as SC08, held in Austin, Texas, this week. The placement of the other finalists wasn’t revealed by the event’s organizers when the winner was announced Thursday (Nov. 20).

“The Bandwidth Challenge is an excellent opportunity for Purdue to experiment with wide-area storage for later use in storage traffic between our regional campuses and our West Lafayette central campus,” said Michael Shuey, high performance computing technical architect at the Rosen Center.

Besides being useful in sharing resources with Purdue’s satellite campuses, the technology tested by the team also might be applicable in an off-campus data center if Purdue builds one in the future.

Purdue's Bandwidth Challenge team included Shuey; Ramon Williamson, the senior storage engineer at the Rosen Center, who served as team manager; Greg Veldman, storage administrator, and Patrick Finnegan, UNIX system administrator. The team partnered with BlueArc, whose server computers the Rosen Center uses to manage data traffic, Texas Memory Systems, makers of fast solid-state storage units akin to a USB flash drive, and Foundry Networks, which provided the high-speed network connection to the SC08 network in Austin, and hence to the outside world, for the competition.

The Rosen Center is the research and discovery arm of Information Technology at Purdue, the University’s central information technology organization.

The Bandwidth Challenge pushes the limits of moving data over a long-distance computer network, such as the Internet or the TeraGrid, the world's largest network for open science computing. Purdue is a partner in and resource provider on the TeraGrid, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Participants in the challenge were judged on the peak amount of data they moved from one place to another during the competition and how high a sustained rate they maintained, as well as their approach to “real-world applications and data movement issues.” Purdue used free software and commodity hardware in the effort, working in part with simulated climate data, which the team moved between West Lafayette and Austin.

Contact: Greg Kline, (765) 494-8167, gkline@purdue.edu

Sources: Ramon Williamson, (765) 496-1272, ramonw@purdue.edu Michael Shuey, (765) 494-0985, shuey@purdue.edu

Originally posted: December 2, 2008