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August 7, 2013

UCSC Ramps Up Astrophysics Work with New HPC Gear

Alex Woodie

A new 60 teraflops supercomputer and 1 petabyte high speed storage system recently installed on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz will give astrophysicists at the college the computational and storage headroom they need to model the heavens like never before.

“Hyades,” as the new supercomputer system is known, is composed of 376 Intel Sandy Bridge processors, eight Nvidia K20 GPUs, three Intel Xeon Phi 5110P accelerators, and 13 terabytes of memory. The Dell computer is 10 times as powerful as “Pleiades,” the system it replaces, yet it occupies the same space in the UC High-Performance AstroComputing Center (UC-HiPACC) and uses the same amount of electricity, according to this Phys.org story

The system, which is named after a cluster of stars that makes up the head of the bull in the constellation Taurus, will be used to model space events, such as exploding stars, black holes, magnetic fields, planet formation, the evolution of galaxies, and what occurred after the big bang.

Perhaps more impressive than Hyades is the high performance, 1,000 terabyte storage system it’s paired with. Based on Huawei’s Universal Distributed Storage (UDS) system, the ARM-based array is similar to a system Huawei installed at CERN to store data from the Large Hadron Collider, and is expected to become one of the largest repositories of astrophysical data outside of national facilities.

The massive storage array is needed because supercomputer simulations generate so much data that it must be analyzed after the fact, Joel Primack, Professor of Physics at UCSC and Director of UC-HiPACC, told Phys.org.

“The Huawei system will be used to store our astrophysics results, not only from Hyades but also from simulations that we run at the big national supercomputing facilities, such as at NASA Ames or Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” Primack said. “Those facilities can only store the results for a limited time, and they also restrict access to them. Now, with the Huawei storage system, we can put our results on a local server.” 

Hyades cost $1.5 million, and was funded by a combination of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and contributions collected on campus. Dell and Intel also chipped in with discounts on hardware. The supercomputer will be used by the Theoretical Astrophysics at Santa Cruz (TASC) group, which includes about 20 faculty and more than 50 postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in four departments, including Applied Math and Statistics, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Physics.

The Huawei UDS storage system is on loan to the Center for Research in Storage Systems (CRSS) at the UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering. The CRSS, which is a joint academic/industry research center supported by the NSF, will be studying the performance of the storage system.

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