Dutch Researchers Build Little Green Machine II Out of IBM Minsky Servers

By Tiffany Trader

April 11, 2017

The newest Dutch HPC cluster is only four “pizza boxes” high, small enough to be carried around on a bicycle, but Little Green Machine II, as the new system is called, will be a big boon for Dutch research in oceanography, computer science, artificial intelligence, financial modeling and astronomy.

The Little Green Machine II is a four-box IBM Power8 “Minsky” cluster, hosted at Leiden University and developed with the assistance of IBM. Funding of approximately 200,000 Euros was provided by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The system was designed and built by ClusterVision.

LGM II has a peak performance just shy of 90 teraflops (double-precision) and is comprised of an IBM Power System head node (the S821LC) and four IBM Power System S822LC for HPC servers, each equipped with two 8-core 3.259GHz POWER8 processors and four NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU, tied together with Nvidia’s high-speed NVLink interconnect.

Here’s a full rundown of the specs:

Head node (1):
IBM Power System S821LC
– 1x 8-core 2.32GHz POWER8 Processor
– 8x 8GB DDR4 Memory
– 2x 4TB 3.5″ SATA HDD
– 1x Dual-port 1Gbps Ethernet
– IPMI Interface w/ Dedicated 1GbE
– 2x 1.8m Power Cord, 200-240V/10A, C13, C14

Worker nodes (4):
IBM Power System S822LC for HPC
– 2x 8-core 3.259GHz POWER8 Processor
– 8x 32GB DDR4 Memory
– 2x 2TB 7.2k RPM 5xx SATA SFF-4 Disk Drive
– 1x Quad-port 1Gbps Ethernet Adapter
– 4x NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU with NVLink
– IPMI Interface w/ Dedicated 1GbE

Switch:
SwitchXo-2 based 12-port QSFP+ FDR 56Gb/s 1U InfiniBand
Connect-IB HCA card, dual-port QSFP, FDR IB (56Gb/s), PCIe3.0 8GT/s x16 RoHS R6

Ethernet:
Netgear ProSafe JGS516 16-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch
– 16x 10/100/1000Base-T RJ-45 Ports
– 32Gbps Switching Bandwidth

“Our design is very compact. You could transport it with a carrier bicycle. Besides that we only use about 1% of the electricity of a similar large supercomputer,” said Project Leader Simon Portegies Zwart of Leiden University in an official statement.

Leiden University astronomer Jeroen Bédorf also commented: “We greatly improved the communication between the graphic cards in the last six months. Therefore we could connect several cards together to form a whole. This technology is essential for the construction of a supercomputer, but not very useful for playing video games.”

The cluster will enable Dutch researchers to carry out computational work that in the past had to be performed off-site. They’ve already used the new cluster to simulate the collision between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, predicted to take place four billion years in the future. A few years ago they ran they ran the same simulation on the Titan Computer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“Now we can do this calculation at home,” Jeroen Bédorf said, “That’s so convenient.”

Little Green Machine II is about ten times faster than its successor, Little Green Machine I. Deployed in 2010 the first Green Machine is being retired. The computer was so named as a nod to its small size and energy efficiency but also in honor of Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first radio pulsar in 1967. That pulsar has the nickname LGM-1 (LGM=Little Green Men).

Read the original press release here.

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