ICHEC invests in supercomputer


26 Aug 2005

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UPDATE: NUI Galway on behalf of the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) has awarded a lucrative tender for a supercomputer, which will prove fundamental for future scientific and technological research and development (R&D) and technology-transfer projects, to IBM, Bull Information Systems and HEAnet.

The recently formed ICHEC 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.

The centre was originally seeking a 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. However, according to Dr Andy Shearer, director of ICHEC, the centre settled on a system with 32 nodes.

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.

A fourth component of the tender for hosting the system in a location near, but not in one of the ICHEC’s partner institutions, was awarded to HEAnet. This component will be for the provision of secure floor space, power and air- conditioning for the centre’s machines.

According to Shearer, the ICHEC is a collaboration of eight different third-level institutions around Ireland and the centre is unique insofar as it is a distributed project operating remotely between Dublin, Cork and Galway. It is funded by Science Foundation Ireland with a grant of €2.6m, a further €0.7m has been given by the Higher Education Authority-funded CosmoGrid project. In this way CosmoGrid is able to get access to a significantly larger machine for its researchers.

He explained: “The ICHEC is a collaboration involving all Irish universities. We will have support scientists near to all Irish universities and research institutions. We are answering the computation needs of Irish researchers.”

By John Kennedy