Oklahoma State University to Build New Supercomputer

By Oliver Peckham

August 18, 2022

Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, Oklahoma State University (OSU) will be building a new supercomputer. The as-yet unnamed system will complement OSU’s existing system, which is named after the OSU mascot, Pistol Pete.

“This is a big moment for OSU and the High Performance Computing Center (HPCC),” said Pratul Agarwal, assistant vice president of research cyberinfrastructure and the director of the HPCC. “The new supercomputer will be powered by the latest generation computing hardware including GPUs[.]”

The NSF award contains some telling details. According to the award, the system will include 100TB of memory, an HDR InfiniBand interconnect and petabyte-scale high-speed storage. It will consist of several types of nodes, with the CPU-only nodes complemented by mid-range GPU nodes and high-end GPU nodes. The abstract says that the researchers expect it to provide “close to 100 million core-hours of computing” per year (the grant, as it stands, runs through July 2025). In an email to HPCwire, Agarwal said that while final system details are still being worked out, they are considering technologies such as the Intel’s forthcoming Sapphire Rapids CPUs, AMD’s forthcoming Genoa CPUs, DDR5 memory, and Nvidia’s next-generation GPUs.

The supercomputer will be funded to the tune of $5.7 million: $4 million from the aforementioned NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) award and $1.7 million from OSU itself. While OSU is leading the project, the proposal was a joint effort that also included Arkansas State University, the Great Plains Network, Kansas State University, the University of Central Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the University of Tulsa and Wichita State University.

The new system comes on the heels of Pistol Pete, a 223-node cluster. Pistol Pete, which was made available to users in 2018, is powered by a mix of Intel Skylake and Cascade Lake CPUs. It also contains a handful of large-memory nodes (including a 1.5TB “super-memory” node) and 10 GPU nodes with “at least two” Nvidia Quadro RTX6000s each. Pistol Pete, which currently serves more than 1,600 users from institutions across Oklahoma, will continue to operate once the new system is installed.

Meet Pistol Pete, OSU’s current supercomputer. Image courtesy of OSU.

The new system sets its eyes on a much wider audience than the Oklahoma research community. “It is being designed to address the needs of researchers across the OAK [Oklahoma-Arkansas-Kansas] region,” Agarwal said. The new system – housed at OSU’s Stillwater campus, where it will stand as the largest system across several neighboring states – will be used to study agriculture, human and animal health, semiconductor materials research, social network modeling, and many other fields, in addition to serving as an educational system for students interested in high-performance computing.

“This system will seed the growth of a collaborative HPC ecosystem in the region, serving the needs of experienced users and enabling first time users, especially from small and under-served institutions,” the award abstract reads. “Technical know-how exchange, regular seminars, and conferences will promote collaborative research endeavors of regional and national importance. Hands-on training of graduate, undergraduate and high-school students in computational and data sciences will broadly improve the skill-sets of the science and engineering workforce in the OAK region.”

“OSU has long provided high-performance research computing to our faculty and students, driving OSU accomplishments in big data analytics, genomics and other key arenas,” added Kenneth Sewell, OSU’s vice president for research. “The increased capabilities this grant will create allow us to expand our leadership to the entire region, multiplying our impact.”

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