Ireland’s fastest supercomputer deployed in just hours

11 Feb 2009

Ireland’s most powerful computer was installed in less than three hours and powered in just one day, said Californian tech firm Silicon Graphics, which deployed the supercomputer at the Irish Centre for High-End computing (ICHEC).

Installed in November at ICHEC, ‘Stokes’, a new Silicon Graphics Altix ICE 8200 system that operates at up to 25.1 trillion operations per second is ranked No 117 on the Top 500 list of the world’s fastest computers.

Perhaps more significantly, the latest ICHEC supercomputer delivers 87.6pc of its peak performance when running the LINPACK benchmark – the best efficiency of any industry-standard system appearing in the list’s top 225 systems.

This remains a serious factor for scientific and engineering institutes that use MPI and seek to minimise run times, processor counts and power use while maximising job throughput.

ICHEC selected Silicon Graphics after a competitive evaluation in which the SGI Altix ICE system delivered the highest performance in benchmark tests. Other factors included low cost of ownership, Silicon Graphics’ renowned application support and collaboration with customers, positive assessments from other SGI Altix ICE users, and the reliability and scalability of the acclaimed integrated blade platform.

The purchase was financed mainly through e-INIS, a national collaborative project co-ordinated by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and funded by Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, together with contributions from University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Operated by ICHEC on behalf of the Irish research community, the system will allow national researchers to address some of the world’s most pressing scientific challenges.

The Altix ICE system will accelerate efforts to develop whole-earth weather and climate models, perform complex DNA sequencing and simulate the immune response to HIV infection.

“This new system from Silicon Graphics not only meets the application performance levels the company promised, but it exceeds them,” said Dr JC Desplat, associate director at ICHEC, Ireland’s first national computing centre.

“We now have a national resource that dramatically improves our ability to solve more complex problems involving ever-larger data volumes.

“The SGI Altix ICE architecture gives researchers the flexibility to pursue multiple courses of investigation rapidly and interactively – a vital advantage that simply was not available to them before now.

“On top of all this, the ability to use Stokes so quickly means we don’t have to keep researchers at bay during a long, frustrating deployment. With Silicon Graphics, we were up and running right away,” said Desplat.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: under the hood of Stokes