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Purdue Builds Top-100 Supercomputer on Unreleased Chips

Purdue University is home to one of the fastest supercomputers in the country and the 54th most powerful in the world, according to the international Top500.org list. The twist is that the system uses Intel chips that haven't been released to market yet and aren't expected until next March.

The new supercomputer, nicknamed "Carter," for Purdue alumnus Dennis Carter, is an HP Cluster Platform 3000 SL6500. It features Intel Xeon E5 "Sandy Bridge" eight-core, 2.6 GHz processors, which haven't yet been released to market, along with HP ProLiant servers and Mellanox FDR Infiniband cluster interconnects. The system has a total of 10,368 cores and runs the Linux operating system.

"Carter is running twice as fast as the supercomputer we were using and is using only half of the nodes," said Michael Baldwin, an assistant professor of atmospheric science at Purdue.

Purdue faculty members cooperatively pooled their research money to fund the system. It is being used for a variety of scientific research projects, including identifying cancer stem cells, predicting hazardous weather, studying the quantum effects of future computer chips, and studying the atmospheric effects of greenhouse gases.

Comparing Carter to previous research methods, Alan Qi, an assistant professor in computer science, statistics, and biology who is using Carter for cancer research said, "Currently the massive patient data is examined manually by a technician; this procedure is obviously very slow and prone to errors. Carter allows us to analyze the data by new advanced statistical models and to have more accurate results in a couple of hours."

"This groundbreaking supercomputer shows what is possible when researchers, campus IT staff, and corporate partners work together as a close team," said Gerry McCartney, chief information officer, vice president for information technology at Purdue and the Olga Oesterle England Professor of Information Technology. "Carter is the fastest research computer at any institution that was completely paid for with faculty and university funds. It was built because Purdue, Intel, HP, and Mellanox shared a vision to create a new resource for scientific discovery."

Purdue University's main campus is located in West Lafayette, Indiana, and serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students. The university also has regional campuses in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Westville, and Hammond, Indiana.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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