German University Installs Research Supercomputer Powered by 2,048 Processors

Technische Universitat Dresden has gone public with its installation of an SGI supercomputer, which is being used by German researchers in the campus' Center for Information Services and High-Performance Computing. TU Dresden installed an SGI Altix 4700 system powered by 2,048 Intel Itanium 2 processors and 6.5 terabytes of main memory.

The center has also implemented an SGI InfiniteStorage Data Management Facility infrastructure, which includes a tape robot system featuring a petabyte of capacity. TU Dresden engineers have shown that the storage system can load 4TB of data from the network into the system memory of the supercomputer in 10 minutes, and 25TB of data can move from the tape archive system to the SGI Altix in four hours.

"High bandwidth for the fast movement of large volumes of data is extremely important for our capability computing approach," said Dr. Wolfgang E. Nagel, director of the center. "The SGI solution exceeded our goals for the speed and efficiency of data movement and management. This is outstanding."

The set-up is being used by researchers in one project to run complex simulations to determine how medical device makers might fuse biological materials with plastics or ceramics to create the ideal hip replacement. Another group is semantically analyzing 16 million scientific articles to efficiently grasp the world's combined understanding of gene expression and protein structures.

The supercomputer, which can deliver 11.9 trillion floating point operations per second, offers researchers up to 50,000 core hours of operation daily and as much as 1.5 million hours every month. Access to this much compute power has translated into real-world benefits, according to a statement issued by SGI. For instance, a complex simulation of large eddy formations that once required more than three months to compute now can be completed overnight.

"With SGI, we have obtained a well-balanced computer and storage environment that we hope will fuel innovation, not just here at the university, but throughout the region," said Dr. Hermann Kokenge, rector of TU Dresden. "With this SGI environment, we can offer our own institutes and other academic communities additional computing power in a working environment perfectly suited for data-intensive study. We already are witnessing major advances in traditional spheres of research and in emerging fields."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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