North-German Supercomputing Alliance Commissions Cray

By Tiffany Trader

January 9, 2013

Marking its last big win of 2012, Cray announced it will supply the North-German Supercomputing Alliance (HLRN) with an XC30 supercomputer worth $39 million. The geographically distributed system will straddle two sites: the Zuse Institute Berlin (ZIB) and the High Performance Computing Center (RRZN) at Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany. The supercomputer will still operate as a unified resource, however, providing petascale power to universities and research centers throughout the north of Germany.

Dubbed “HLRN-III,” the new machine offers a peak performance of approximately 2.6 petaflops, a 10-fold increase over the previous system (an SGI Altix machine). The additional computing power will contribute to scientific advances in a wide range of subjects, including environmental research and climate science, engineering applications, as well as basic sciences such as physics, chemistry and life sciences.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Rung, head of the Scientific Board of the HLRN, characterized the new Cray as “a flexible computing architecture that will fulfill our need for advanced supercomputing technologies now and into the future.”

Cray vice president, Europe, Dr. Ulla Thiel views the deal as a marker of Cray’s expanded global activities. “With these large installations in Berlin and Hannover, Cray continues to strengthen its presence internationally and expand its coverage across the European HPC landscape,” noted Thiel.

Cray’s flagship XC30 supercomputer (based on the “Cascade” architecture) is powered by Intel Xeon processors. The system incorporates Cray’s Aries interconnect technology with Dragonfly topology, a Lustre file system, an innovative cooling system and the latest Cray Linux Environment (based on SLES 11). DDN and Hitachi Data Systems are listed as storage partners.

It’s worth mentioning that Cray’s first XC30 contract, announced in 2010, was with HLRS in Stuttgart, Germany. Other notable XC30 installations include:

  • The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Lugano, Switzerland.
  • The Pawsey Centre in Perth, Australia, owned by CSIRO and operated by iVEC.
  • The Finnish IT Center for Science Ltd. (CSC).
  • The Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) in Berkeley, Calif. (link).
  • The Academic Center for Computing and Media Studies (ACCMS) at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan.

The contract with HLRN consists of products and services valued at more than $39 million with project funding split between the federal government and participating states. Installation will take part in two phases: the first half will conclude this Fall (2013), while the second phase is planned for late 2014.

The North-German Supercomputing Alliance, established in 2001, is comprised of seven states: Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, and Schleswig-Holstein. The HLRN alliance works together to secure funding for the acquisition and maintenance of shared HPC resources in order to support research, drive innovation and boost national competitiveness.

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