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Finland acquires a new supercomputer for research

CSC, the Finnish IT center for science, acquires a new supercomputer system, which means a significant leap in performance of computer resources available for Finnish researchers.

The new system enables new kinds of research and increases accuracy of current simulation models. At the same time CSC extends its super-cluster system as well. The purchase is totally funded by the Ministry of Education and the equipment will remain the property of the Finnish state under the possession of the Ministry of Education.

The supercomputer

The new massively parallel processing supercomputer system (MPP) will be delivered by Cray Inc. Cray MPP systems are scalable by design and address the most demanding high performance computing (HPC) applications. The Cray “Hood” system at CSC will have a peak performance of over 70 Tflops and it will be one of the most powerful systems in Europe. The system will be installed in stages during 2006 – 2008.

Cray’s Hood supercomputer, the successor to the Cray XT3 supercomputer, is designed for superior scalability and unsurpassed sustained performance on a wide range of scientific applications. It employs thousands of AMD Opteron processors running a lightweight operating system tuned to optimize sustained application performance. Processors are interconnected on a high-bandwidth, low-latency communications network custom designed by Cray, based on HyperTransport technology and Cray’s unique SeaStar routing and communications chip.

During the multi-phased acquisition process the offered systems were tested by running the CSC benchmark set, which consists of codes used by CSC’s customers. “The supercomputer selection was based on the Cray Hood’s extremely good performance and scalability. The new system will help our customers in solving the most challenging scientific problems” says Kimmo Koski, Managing Director of CSC. “The purchase provides the Finnish research community with competitive computer resources for the rest of decade”, Koski says.

“We are delighted to welcome CSC Finland as a Cray customer,” said Ulla Thiel, Vice President of Cray Europe. “As one of the most prominent supercomputing centers in Europe with a broad range of HPC disciplines, CSC is in an excellent position to prove the worth of the new Cray MPP system in allowing its users to run true capability class applications.”

Super-cluster increases throughput capacity

The acquired super-cluster system is an HP CP4000BL ProLiant cluster running the HP XC cluster software stack, integrated with a 100 TB HP Scalable File Share high-performance storage system based on Lustre technology. This cluster uses the recently introduced cClass blades from HP, incorporating a 4X DDR Infiniband interconnect. The cluster contains 2048 2,6 GHz AMD Opteron compute cores, 4 TB of memory, and has a peak performance of 10.6 Tflops.

The super-cluster system increases the throughput capacity for users, who need moderate numbers of processors but large memory and high-performance storage. Thanks to the high-speed interconnect, it can be used for small or medium-size parallel jobs as well. The system will be one of the most powerful installations of HP in Europe.

“HP looks forward to a productive collaboration with CSC to help accelerate the productivity of scientific research in Finland”, said Martin Walker, HP Segment Manager for Scientific Research, “The industry standard cClass infrastructure accommodates next generation processors, memory, and interconnect, making it possible for CSC to remain on the leading edge of computing technology.”

“AMD is proud of being able to contribute to such an exciting project that will boost the scientific research in Finland for a long time,” said Francesco Torricelli , worldwide manager of high performance computing at AMD. “The AMD Opteron processor provides the scalability, performance, I/O bandwidth and power efficiency IT managers in large scientific research centers are looking for. Furthermore, the AMD64 architecture inherent in the AMD Opteron processor allows an easy and seamless upgrade path from dual- to quad-core processors. All within the same power specifications and infrastructure – enabling the researchers to easily scale with their computing needs.”

The allowances available for the purchase were 10 million euros and the vast majority of it is used for supercomputer and super-cluster. A minor portion will be used for a new data storage system.

Splitting the order between two various systems makes it possible to differentiate CSC’s computing services according to the customer needs. The Cray supercomputer will be dedicated to the most challenging problems in HPC and allow applications to scale to several thousands of processors while HP super-cluster offers good price/performance ratio for jobs of moderate parallelism needing large memory or plenty of disk space.

Enabling new research

The new resources will have a major impact on the computational research in Finland. Foremost the nanoscientists, who are the biggest users of CSC's resources in terms of cpu-time, but also other big groups, including environment researchers, chemists, bio-scientists and physicists will all certainly be able to benefit from the large increase of computing power. Half of the centers of excellence in research, nominated by the Academy of Finland, are CSC's customers and use one third of the computing capacity.

“One of the most rapidly growing areas of research and product development today is nanoscience and -technology, which utilizes atom-level scientific understanding to build up new kinds of functional materials and devices. Nanoscience thus relies on understanding complicated atomic interactions, and the best way to obtain that is using massive supercomputing capability.” says professor Kai Nordlund from the University of Helsinki. He continues: “The new capacity will enable, for instance, studying dynamic processes in entire nanoobjects on the quantum level, something which very few research groups yet can do anywhere in the world.”

“Climate system models supply Finnish society with information on climate change. These models describe the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere with all their mutual interactions, making them computationally and expert-wise very demanding. Need for computational resources increases in pace with the higher resolution, which is necessary for modeling of local and short-term weather extremes” says research professor Heikki Järvinen from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).

Professor Järvinen emphasizes, that the new supercomputer capacity at CSC facilitates the climate research at FMI and in the universities to support preparation of national climate policy and to evaluate human impact on climate even on national scale.

Leena Jukka | alfa
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