Béluga Supercomputer Now Serving Canadian Researchers

By Oliver Peckham

April 26, 2019

Béluga has been inaugurated as the latest supercomputer available to Canadian researchers. Named after the white whales found in the St. Lawrence River that runs through Canada, Béluga is located at the École de technologie supérieure in Montreal, where it began operation earlier this month.

Béluga was deployed by Compute Canada and funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Québec and the Fonds de recherche du Québec. The preparation for the supercomputer was a collective effort by research teams from McGill University, Université de Montréal, Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke — all of which participate in Calcul Québec, an umbrella organization supporting advanced research computing in Canada.

“Not only do we provide important computing capacity, but Calcul Québec also helps researchers harness this advanced infrastructure,” said Suzanne Talon, CEO for Calcul Québec. “Our team’s expertise is essential to quality research.”

Designed to tackle a variety of workloads, Béluga is a heterogeneous supercomputer comprised of four principal components: a CPU subsection, a GPU subsection, data storage, and a high-speed interconnect linking the subsystems.

The CPU subsection — benchmarked at 1.35 Linpack petaflops — consists of 700 servers utilizing Intel Skylake processors, a quarter of which have lower RAM for less compute-intensive tasks. The GPU subsection, meanwhile, was measured at 2.278 Linpack petaflops and consists of 172 Intel-based servers utilizing 688 Nvidia Volta GPUs. Béluga has 13 petabytes of disk-based storage for working files and 67 petabytes of tape-based storage for daily backups. It utilizes both a 25-to-100-gigabit/second Ethernet network and a higher-performance InfiniBand network. There are also plans to add an 80-server cloud to Béluga, which will include one petabyte of storage.

Béluga now ranks as one of the most powerful supercomputing systems in Canada, and its GPU subsection is the most powerful of its type among Compute Canada’s supercomputers. It joins the ranks of Cedar at Simon Fraser University, Arbutus at University of Victoria, Niagara at University of Toronto and Graham at University of Waterloo.

“Our government is proud of its $12.8 million contribution in support of the Béluga project,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation for the Government of Québec. “Innovation is a key element of flourishing economies and prosperous societies. Through innovation, Québec will be more productive and able to meet the future’s major challenges. Béluga is a state-of-the-art supercomputer and was made available through the exceptional teamwork of our research and teaching institutions. It will become an essential part of advancing research in Quebec.”

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