Carter cluster getting good grades from faculty, capacity still available

June 27, 2012

Purdue faculty researchers using the Carter community cluster report that the University’s latest research supercomputer can significantly speed up time to results for many research applications and enable more complex simulations. Capacity in the Carter cluster is still available.

The Steele cluster, Purdue's first commmunity cluster built in 2008, enabled chemistry Professor Joseph Francisco’s lab, which studies the molecular structure of chemicals involved in global warming, to tackle problems it couldn’t think of doing before. But Carter is taking the computationally intensive work to new levels — and radically faster.

“I’ve been able to take jobs that would run one month or two months and they’ve been finished in a week or a week and a half,” says Eric Cotton, a researcher in Francisco’s lab.

Carter 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. More details are available on the Carter cluster information website. To order, visit the Carter cluster order website.

Purdue partnered with Intel, HP and Mellanox, which makes the fast networking system tying the Carter cluster together, to build the new supercomputer with next-generation components. Carter ranked 54th on the November TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers and was among the half dozen most powerful machines at U.S. academic institutions. The cluster, the most powerful on a U.S. campus where research computing facilities are not part of a federally funded laboratory, is Purdue's first to rank among the TOP500's top 100 machines.

“The results have been encouraging,” says Alina Alexeenko, a Carter user and assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics. “Basically, it’s about three times faster than what we have now.”

Through community clustering, 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 clusters, including security, sofware updates 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.

Carter is named for Dennis Carter, a retired Intel vice president and Purdue alumnus who developed the innovative "Intel Inside" marketing campaign.

Originally posted: June 27, 2012