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January 30, 2014

MGrid Doubles Capacity, Welcomes New Members

Tiffany Trader

Recognizing the competitive value of advanced computing technologies, numerous initiatives from government and industry have been created to broker and promote high-performance computing within their communities. These efforts are helping to bolster the growth of American industry through greater economic opportunity – including job creation and enhanced competitiveness. The Milwaukee Institute is part of this wave of regional HPC endeavors.

Founded in 2007, the Milwaukee Institute bills itself as Wisconsin’s only provider of publicly accessible, HPC systems and storage infrastructure. The non-profit computational research center manages a regional cyber-infrastructure for technical computing, known as the Milwaukee Metropolitan Grid, or “MGrid”. The organization’s approximately 25 corporate and academic members get to enjoy the usual benefits of HPC, such as faster prototyping, shorter development times, reduced costs and improved results, without having to acquire additional equipment, staff, operating expenses or other recurring costs.

In September of last year, the Milwaukee Institute, Inc. (MI) announced it was doubling the capacity of its high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure, an expansion valued at $500,000. MGrid’s original Dell Cluster, acquired in 2009, has subsequently been upgraded with 16 Dell PowerEdge r620 servers, each with dual eight-core Intel Xeon E5-2660 “Sandy Bridge” processors, and 1 Dell PowerEdge r820 Deep Memory Node with 768 GB of RAM and four eight-socket Intel Xeon E5-4660 (Sandy Bridge-E) processors, bringing the total count to 46 servers and 520 cores, connected by a high-speed InfiniBand backbone. A second resource, mainly used for visualization-type workloads, consists of a 2U server with dual six-core Intel Xeon X5650 “Westmere” processors, a NVIDIA Quadro 4000 GPU (256-core), and a NVIDIA Tesla C2075 GPU (448-core) – for a total of 12 CPU cores and 704 GPGPU cores. The additional capacity and computing power will enable users to run more complex modeling and simulation workloads in less time.

This month the Institute announced that manufacturers Briggs & Stratton Corp. and Oilgear Co. have joined the MGrid consortium. Their engineering teams will use the HPC resources to speed product development. Milwaukee-based Briggs & Stratton is a leading manufacturer of lawn mower engines and small engines, while Oilgear designs and manufactures high pressure valves and pumps used in offshore oil and gas applications. Designing and testing these product lines requires sophisticated computational fluid dynamics software to simulate the interaction of liquids and gases with surfaces. This is a compute-intensive problem that yields better results on high-end hardware.

“These two new members exemplify the application of modern computing to advanced manufacturing,” remarked Jay Bayne, executive director of the non-profit computing center, in a Journal Sentinel Online article. “As a Midwest center for manufacturing, we need to have a renaissance in this space and we think the Milwaukee Institute is helping to enable that.”

In December, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and Mason Wells, a Milwaukee-based private equity firm, made matching grants of $250,000 each to support the Milwaukee Institute’s Computational Science Challenge Grant program. Thanks to these patrons, a year-long pilot project is providing grants to at least five small and midsize companies to sponsor access to MGrid and related services.

The application deadline for Computational Science Challenge Grants applications is this Friday, and an application is available here.