NUI Galway invests in supercomputer


26 Aug 2005

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UPDATE: NUI Galway has awarded a lucrative tender for a supercomputer that could prove fundamental for future scientific and technological research and development, and technology-transfer projects to IBM, Bull Information Systems and HEAnet. It is believed the university will be the second such institution in Ireland to have this facility.

The recently formed National Centre for High-End Computing was on the hunt for computing equipment that will satisfy the computation needs of the computational science community in Ireland.

According to the tender documents, the centre was looking for a large computer cluster at the heart of which will be an symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) machine and a shared files system with at least 100TB of usable disk.

It is expected the computer cluster would have at least 1,000 nodes and the SMP system would have at least 128 nodes. The file system can be divided into a smaller fast system and a slower larger system.

IBM has emerged as the provider of the first and second components – the provision of an integrated storage solution and computer cluster solution.

Bull Information Systems will provide the university with a large NUMA (non-uniform memory access) system. NUMA is a method of configuring a cluster of microprocessors in a multiprocessing system so that they can share memory locally, improving performance and the ability of the system to be expanded. NUMA is used in a SMP.

SMP, which lies at the heart of supercomputing, is a computing architecture that provides fast performance by making multiple CPUs available to complete multiprocessing. Unlike asymmetrical processing any idle processor can be assigned any task and additional CPUs can be added to improve performance and handle increased loads. A variety of specialised operating systems and hardware arrangements are available to support SMP. Specific applications can benefit from SMP if the code allows multithreading. SMP uses a single operating system and shares common memory and disk input/output resources. Both UNIX and Windows NT support SMP.

A fourth component of the tender for hosting the system was awarded to HEAnet. This component will be for the provision of secure floor space, power and air-conditioning for the centre’s machines.

It is believed NUI Galway will be the second academic institution in Ireland, after a joint venture between Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast, to own a supercomputer following the successful conclusion of the tender.

By John Kennedy