Case Study: University of East Anglia's New HPC System Open For Use

Feb 05, 2016

The University of East Anglia is continuing its quest to bring supercomputing research power to greater numbers of ‘non-traditional’ research users by investing in a powerful new High Performance Computing (HPC) system to sit at the heart of its HPC service.

The system marks the University’s second new HPC system in four years - and, like its predecessor, can be easily scaled and expanded in the coming months through a framework agreement to match rapidly increasing demand for compute power, says the Uni. 

Chris Collins, Head of Research and Computing Support at the University of East Anglia, says: “We've long recognised the benefits of HPC to multiple disciplines of research, and after getting funding for this in 2010, we've been conscious of the need to get more 'non-traditional' HPC users on board.

"We scaled that system continually because of demand, and now we’re replacing it with a more powerful system, as we're keen to add to our existing 500 research users.”

The new system, designed and integrated by HPC, big data and analytics integrator OCF, is made up of Fujitsu Primergy servers with IBM’s Platform 4.2 cluster management tool.

The array integrates with the University’s existing IBM SAN storage system with IBM Spectrum Scale )formerly GPFS), though some of the newer hardware from the University’s old cluster will be migrated over to the new HPC environment by OCF during the next few weeks.

When done that will mean nearly 6,600 cores available to researchers at the University by early 2016, which means HPC users from not just 'the usual suspects' of climate change, bioinformatics, computational chemistry, environmental sciences and computing, but also new disciplines like teams in its medical, business school and Economics departments.

A research group from the School of Computing, for example, is currently piloting the new HPC system to investigate a computational comparison of varying algorithms - being able to runhalf a million jobs in the first few weeks.

The Fujitsu cluster will be housed across the University’s two data centres, while the migration process will also involve moving around 800 different applications that cater for the diverse usage of the HPC system across the University’s departments. 

Mostly Open Source, UEA's HPC apps stack it also includes some central licenses for commercial software, a range of bioinformatics tools, and other applications such as MATLAB, R and Python.

For Collins, “It is important for us to respond to changing demands for HPC within the University. Regular University funding over the past four years has meant that we can be forward thinking and can plan our resource growth more effectively. This worked with our previous cluster in 2011 and now, with our second, we can work with OCF to purchase and install new hardware, so we can scale the HPC service when required.

"Our investment is more targeted and cost effective on an on-going basis," he added.

The University plans to expand the HPC system with further hardware purchases before July 2016.

(c) 2016

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