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U Toronto IBM Supercomputer Churns through 300 Trillion Calculations a Second

The University of Toronto's SciNet High Performance Computing Consortium, Compute Canada, and IBM have completed a new supercomputer facility at SciNet that has a peak processing power of more than 300 trillion calculations per second, making it Canada's most powerful supercomputer and one of the most powerful and energy-efficient supercomputers in the world.

The computer will be used for research in aerospace, astrophysics, bioinformatics, chemical physics, climate change prediction, medical imaging, and CERN's ATLAS project, which is investigating the forces that govern the universe.

"With the IBM iDataPlex cluster now operational, the SciNet facility will begin delivering high performance computing services to the Canadian research community that are fully competitive with those available internationally," said Richard Peltier, scientific director of SciNet and Director of the Centre for Global Change Science. "This unique facility, both in terms of its compute power and its energy efficiency, represents a major success for Compute Canada, Canada's national [high performance computing] platform, and for the University of Toronto Community as a whole." Peltier said the new system would enhance his own work, which includes research on the impact of greenhouse gas-induced global warming.

Another area of research for this system will be to explore the modern scientific mystery of why matter has mass and what constitutes the mass of the universe. Beginning in September, CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project based in Geneva, the most powerful particle accelerator ever built, will produce vast quantities of data. SciNet's computing power and storage capacity will be a contributor to the data analysis.

Additional areas of research include analyzing high-resolution global models to predict future risks, such as the accelerating decrease in Arctic sea ice. An immediate project will be the construction of regional climate change predictions for the Province of Ontario and Great Lakes watershed region.

With peak performance of 300 trillion calculations per second, this IBM System x iDataPlex system would currently place in the top 15 of the world's most powerful supercomputers, according to the latest TOP500 List. It uses a total of 30,240 Intel processor 5500 series 2.53 GHz processor cores and is entirely water cooled.

The water-cooled technology--IBM's Rear Door Heat Exchanger--extracts more heat than the systems actually generate. This, combined with additional energy efficiency technologies, including dynamic provisioning software that automatically turns off processors not currently in use, and the state-of-the-art data center design at the University of Toronto saves enough energy to power 700 homes yearly, the participants said in a statement.

This new iDataPlex system adds to SciNet's existing supercomputing capability, which includes an IBM water cooled Power 575 supercomputer with 3,328 POWER6 cores with peak performance of more than 60 trillion calculations per second.

The consortium includes the University of Toronto and associated research hospitals. Compute Canada is a national high performance computing resource for academic institutions, of which SciNet is a member.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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