Video shows off Carter cluster's new home

October 9, 2013

On the outside that may look like a shipping container deposited behind a security fence at the Purdue power plant, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

Inside, it is the new high-tech home of the Carter community cluster. ITaP has moved the Carter cluster to a portable, self-contained, modular computer center manufactured by HP and linked the facility to campus research data storage with high-speed fiber optics, making everything work like Carter was still in the middle of campus.

View a video about Carter's new home

The move makes room in the Mathematical Sciences Building for future supercomputers at Purdue, among them Purdue’s RCAC's Conte website.

Carter, built in partnership with Intel in 2011, held the distinction of fastest campus supercomputer when it went online, but its move to the HP “POD” is hardly a sign that the supercomputer has become outdated. Carter still ranked 175th on the latest TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers in June and seventh among U.S. campus supercomputers.

The POD (short for Performance Optimized Data Center) is a worthy new home for what is still a top-flight supercomputer. The modular computer center is state-of-the-art technologically, cost- and space-efficient and secure with its location behind a fence at a site where Purdue physical facilities staff members are present 24/7. Surveillance cameras and an alarm system also protect it.

“The POD is designed for function only and so it does not look impressive but it’s a serious structure,” says computer science Professor Eugene Spafford, a leading cyber security expert and executive director of the Purdue-based Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS). “Legal documents and money are important to us and we lock them up in bank vaults. Our data is perhaps just as important, and the POD is locked, alarmed, climate-controlled, surveilled and access-controlled.”

The facility also offers big cost advantages over a new building, a building expansion or a building refit to accommodate new supercomputers — and advantages in operations costs and energy consumption as well. The modular computer center is very energy efficient, even making use of Indiana’s chilly winter temperatures for wintertime air conditioning.

Industry giants such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft make significant use of containerized data centers, not to mention the U.S. military, but Purdue was one of the first universities to do so. ITaP has housed Purdue’s Steele cluster supercomputer, which is being retired, in the POD since 2010.

Originally posted: October 9, 2013