Tag Archive for computer cluster

Wesleyan’s New Computing Cluster Can Process Computations 50X Faster

Henk Meij, unix systems group manager in Information Technology Services, and Francis Starr, professor of physics, look over Wesleyan's new high-performance computer platform, located on the fifth floor of ITS. The new cluster runs calculations up to 50 times faster than the previous cluster, installed in 2010. The new cluster also offers an additional 50 terabytes of disk space for a total of 100 terabytes.

Henk Meij, unix systems group manager in Information Technology Services, and Francis Starr, professor of physics, look over Wesleyan’s new high-performance computer platform, located on the fifth floor of ITS. The new cluster runs calculations up to 50 times faster than the previous cluster, installed in 2010. The new cluster also offers an additional 50 terabytes of disk space for a total of 100 terabytes. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

While technology at Wesleyan is growing by leaps and bounds, the computational capacity is growing by gigaFLOPS and now, teraFLOPS.

Not to be confused with the prehistoric pterodactyl’s beach footwear, a teraFLOP is a term used in high-performance computing to quantify the rate at which computer systems can perform arithmetic operations. TeraFLOPs can perform one trillion operations per second (S), and for scientists at Wesleyan, this means calculations can be done up to 50 times faster with the new computing cluster, installed during the summer 2013.

Even when running at full capacity, the new computer cluster outputs only 78 degrees of heat. The older systems measured 100 degrees, and require more cooling power to operate.

Even when running at full capacity, the new computer cluster outputs only 78 degrees of heat. The older systems measured 100 degrees, and require more cooling power to operate.

“The new cluster has been revolutionary in my own work,” said Francis Starr, professor of physics. “I used to run calculations that would take a month or even a year to compute, and my patience would run out. Now, I can get results in two or three days.”

In 2006, Wesleyan’s computing cluster came in around 0.5 teraflops. In the 2010 at 1.5 teraflops, and the newest cluster has a theoretical capacity of 25 to 75 teraflops, depending on the application.

“By way of comparison, my Mac laptop comes in around 0.02 teraflops, so I would need 3,500 laptops to achieve the same compute power! I think I will need a bigger backpack,” Starr said.

The new technology also is “green.” While the new machine is 100 times more powerful than the 2006 cluster, it requires half the the electrical power to operate and less cooling power to run the hardware.

The new cluster is currently used by faculty and students in chemistry, computer science, physics, biology, the social sciences and the Quantitative Analysis Center. Henk Meij, unix systems group manager and a senior consultant for the QAC, manages the facility’s operation and offers support and maintenance for any software issues. He also offers training and teaches faculty and students how to submit jobs to the scheduling system.

“Anyone on campus who needs a fast computation, ITS offers this tremendous resource which can be very beneficial to your research,” Meij said. “We can now solve real world problems in a matter of days.”

The newest cluster cost $125,000,

NSF Grant Improves Numerical Modeling Capacity at Wesleyan

Francis Starr, associate professor of physics, co-authored a grant proposal, which was recently funded by the NSF to support growth of the computer facilities for the university’s Scientific Computing and Informatics Center.

A $298,736 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will allow Wesleyan to remain competitive in numerical modeling research and education on an international level.

Francis Starr, associate professor of physics, David Beveridge, the Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, and Michael Weir, professor of biology, director of the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, received the grant for a project titled “Major Research Instrumentation – Recovery and Reinvestment program (MRI-R2): Acquisition of Shared Cluster and Database Computing Facilities at Wesleyan University.”

The grant, awarded over three years beginning May 1, will fund growth of the computer facilities for the university’s Scientific Computing and Informatics Center (SCIC), including expansion of the university’s high-performance computer cluster and a new genomics database server.

Wesleyan currently runs 36 Dell computer nodes for the academic computing cluster known as “Swallowtail.” Each machine is capable of processing eight jobs simultaneously, for a total of 288 jobs. Another 129 computer nodes called “Sharptail,” recently donated by Blue Sky Studios, are capable of processing two jobs simultaneously each, for a total of 258 jobs.

“With the NSF grant, we anticipate roughly doubling our capacity,” Starr says. “Think of it as setting up a virtual laboratory in the computer where we can perform experiments that might be challenging

Hsu, Starr Authors in Academy of Sciences

Chia Wei “Wade” Hsu ’10 and Francis Starr, are co-authors of “Hierarchies of networked phases induced by multiple liquid-liquid critical points,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105, 13711-13715. Hsu and Starr showed that by attaching specific single strands of DNA to nano-sized particles to create customizable “nano-atoms,” they could generate new materials with phase diagrams never previously seen in nature. Their work is based on a massive set of computations on the new university computer cluster. Fred Ellis, professor of physics, is Hsu’s faculty advisor.