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July 3, 2012

UK Lab Fires Up New GPU Cluster

Robert Gelber

In the UK, a new HPC system at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is set to begin service today. The cluster named “Emerald” is the region’s fastest GPU-accelerated HPC machine. It will be accompanied by “Iridis 3,” which is hosted by the University of Southampton.

Together, both systems have been funded by a £3.7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is part of a larger £145 million investment in e-infrastructure. David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, discussed the systems and their e-infrastructure funding in an official statement:

“These two new supercomputers form part of the Government’s £145 million investment in e-infrastructure and will be invaluable assets to business and universities. They will drive growth and innovation, encourage inward investment in the UK and keep us at the very leading edge of science.”

Researchers have already planned to use the systems for studies in astrophysics, healthcare, bioinformatics and simulations of communications technologies.  Specific areas include, swine flu research, pulsar detection for the upcoming Square Kilometer Array, next-generation genome sequencing, and modeling cellular communications. Both clusters are set to provide substantial compute capacity for these workloads.

Emerald is an 84-node HP cluster outfitted with NVIDIA M2090 GPUs. All the nodes run twin 6-core, Xeon E5649 chips, but in two GPU configurations.  Sixty of the nodes are equipped with three of the M2090s and 48 GB of main memory, while the remaining 24 units house eight GPUs and 96 GB of memory. The cluster is hooked together via QDR InfiniBand. Total performance amounts to 114.4 Linpack teraflops, which earned Emerald the number 159 spot on June’s TOP500 list.

Iridis has been active since 2010, when the supercomputer landed at number 74 on the TOP500. Powered by 12,000 Intel Xeon “Westmere” cores, the cluster, like Emerald, has two node configurations: standard compute units with 22 GB of memory, and high memory units with 45 GB. Peak performance is 72 teraflops.

The Emerald deployment coincides with the official launch of the e-Infrastructure South Consortium, which consists of the University College London, Bristol, Southampton and Oxford Universities. Together, the institutions have partnered with the Department of Scientific Computing at RAL to build the e-infrastructure South Centre for Innovation. The new center will play host to both systems.