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August 19, 2010

The Week in Review

by Tiffany Trader

Here is a collection of highlights from this week’s news stream as reported by HPCwire.

NSF Awards SDSC $2.8 Million for Trestles Supercomputer

NLR Deploys New, Wide-Area Backbone Network for GENI Project

UT, ORNL Crunching Numbers to Make Sense of Climate Change

ORION Helps Transmit First Results from Large Hadron Collider

SDSC Leads Supercomputing Efforts in Creating Largest-Ever Earthquake Simulation

Broad Institute Acquires License to All ChemAxon Products

DARPA Selects Sandia National Laboratories to Design New Supercomputer Prototype

New Computer Model Advances Climate Change Research

One Billion Unknowns Solved with the FinisTerrae Supercomputer

X-ISS Makes DecisionHPC Widely Available

HPC Advisory Council Forms Worldwide Centers of Excellence

Supermicro 4U Storage Server Features 72 Hot-swap SAS2 Drives

Force10 Powers Two of the World’s Five Fastest Supercomputers

Einstein@Home Project Discovers Unusual Pulsar

New Supercomputer Connection Speeds Genetic Research

Purdue’s cool invention

This week Purdue announced a really cool energy management device (pun intended) that will be a boon to system administrators of large scientific datacenters everywhere. It’s one of the those seemingly simple ideas that could have wide-ranging positive consequences. It seems some smart people at Purdue (redundant!) were understandably irked at losing data due to datacenter shutdowns due to overheating, and, necessity being the mother of invention, they came up with a solution, a program to slow down the system when temperatures rise, negating the need for a complete system shutdown.

It was Patrick Finnegan, a Unix systems administrator at Purdue, who first came up with the idea of using the built-in capability of the Linux operating system to slow the machines in the event that the water-cooling system malfuctions.

If the machines exceed 90 degrees, they experience an automatic shutdown to prevent damage to the multi-million dollar supercomputers. But even a brief shutdown often means millions of hours of lost computing time when dealing with computationally-intense scientific research.

Mike Shuey, the high-performance computing systems manager at Purdue, explains: “Past a certain temperature, our only option has been to start shutting down racks of computers. That has ripple effects on the research efforts of the university for weeks afterward.”

In the past, shutting down the system was the only recourse, and jobs that were in the middle of running would have to start over. Days of computational work would be lost.

The new solution is akin to slamming on the breaks of a vehicle in order to avoid a crash, except in this case, nearly 8,000 processors are being simultaneously subdued. This leads to a reduction in energy use and cuts the heat produced by the machines by as much as 30 percent. Yes, the jobs will run more slowly until the cooling system is repaired, but this is much less onerous than a complete system shut down, necessating job restarts.

One interesting aspect of the story is that the fix could not be tested out until an actual cooling emergency occurred. But when the time came for the live test, the program worked, much to the relief and satisfaction of all parties involved.

Says Shuey: “The program worked, and the datacenter didn’t overheat, so the process was a success. We actually were a bit surprised it worked so seamlessly. It’s much better to have jobs run slowly for an hour than to throw away everyone’s work in progress and mobilize staff to try to fix things.”

If you think the “High Performance Computing Saving Device” could be useful to you, it is available for a modest fee ($250), and includes all of the notes on the implementation.

Dell to pay premium for 3PAR

This week Dell announced its intention to purchase the Fremont, Calif.-based storage vendor 3PAR for $1.15 billion. The terms of the deal have been approved by the board of directors at both companies. If all goes as planned, Dell will acquire all of the outstanding common stock of 3PAR for $18 per share in cash, which is an 86 percent premium to the company’s closing price on Friday (Aug. 13). The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year.

From the release:

Dell plans to make 3PAR an integral part of its industry-leading storage portfolio, including PowerVault, EqualLogic and Dell/EMC. With 3PAR, Dell will offer innovative systems and customer choice at every storage tier, from direct-attach to highly-virtualized, clustered SANS.

3PAR provides a utility storage platform, a multi-tenant, clustered architecture for highly-virtualized datacenters and cloud computing, which Dell can now offer to its customers seeking cloud storage solutions.

According to much of the speculation surrounding this announcement, including coverage at ComputerWorld, Dell is positioning itself to compete with larger datacenter storage rivals, such as HP, IBM, Hitachi, NetApp and even partner EMC. Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge presents a comprehensive roundup of noteworthy analysis.

Brad Anderson, Dell senior vice president of the enterprise product group, explains how the 3PAR solution fits in with Dell’s current storage offering:

“We have aligned our storage offerings over the last several years to provide our customers choice and value. 3PAR brings the same values of performance, agility and ease-of-use to higher end, virtualized storage deployments as EqualLogic does for the entry-level and mid-range, rounding out our industry-leading solutions portfolio.”

David Scott, president and CEO of 3PAR, expressed his take on the new relationship,

“3PAR has consistently provided customers with the ability to do more with less. With Dell we combine a powerful, virtualized storage platform with an outstanding distribution network to deliver this value to an even broader set of customers.”

Dell says that after closing it plans to maintain and invest in additional engineering and sales capability, and has no plans to move the current operations.

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