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Lonestar 4 Supercomputer Will Boost Research

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A look at the Lonestar 4 suercomputer, the newest system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin, Texas.

The Lonestar 4 system is the latest addition to the supercomputer stable at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin. The system, which came online last week, replaces the previous Lonestar system that supported  The National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid network for almost four years. The TACC is also home to the Ranger supercomputer, which in 2008 was the  world’s most powerful system.

The NSF, The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas System, the UT Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University and multiple technology partners committed $12 million to deploy this new supercomputer.

“Austin and Texas have long been leaders in technology R&D, information technology, and in particular, supercomputing,” said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. “We’re getting accustomed to being at the front of the supercomputing pack, as it should be. Lonestar 4 solidifies this position of leadership.”

TACC Partners with Dell, Mellanox and Data Direct

TACC partnered with Dell, Intel, Mellanox Technologies and Data Direct Networks to deploy a system designed for optimal performance across a wide spectrum of scientific applications. Lonestar 4 is the third largest system on the NSF TeraGrid and ranks among the most powerful academic supercomputers in the world. The system’s capabilities include:

  • 302 teraflops peak performance
  • 44.3 terabytes total memory
  • 1.2 petabytes raw disk

The system’s primary computing power comes from 1,888 Dell M610 PowerEdge blade servers, each with two six-core Intel Xeon 5600 Westmere processors. DataDirect Networks provides the high-speed disk storage and a Mellanox 40Gb/s InfiniBand network integrates the components to enable very high-performance computing on a wide range of applications. Lonestar 4 will provide almost 200 million processor core hours per year to the national scientific community.

TACC Director Jay Boisseau emphasized the scientific work will be made possible by Lonestar4’s computing power. “Supercomputers like Lonestar 4 enable researchers to make breakthrough discoveries that advance our knowledge in science and engineering, and often produce transformational impacts for society as well,” said Boisseau. “We’re proud to make Lonestar 4 available to researchers in Texas and across the country, and we will continue to increase its capabilities to facilitate new research, education and discovery.”

Modeling Geophysics, Hurricane Studies

Lonestar 4 is being used to model several phenomena in solid earth geophysics, including seismic wave propagation, mantle convection and the dynamics of polar ice sheets.

“More accurate models of the dynamics of these geophysical processes can lead to a better understanding of seismic hazard and future sea level rise,” said Omar Ghattas, the Jackson Chair in Computational Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin.

Clint Dawson, a professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, and head of the Computational Hydraulics Group, is conducting hurricane storm surge studies in 2-D and 3-D.

“With Lonestar 4, we’re able to do 3-D runs now in much less time, and we can compare results between 2-D and 3-D to see how much 3-D effects matter,” Dawson said. “It’s important for two reasons — evacuation as storms approach land and for studying new hurricane protection systems.”

“Geophysical simulations are characterized by a number of computational challenges, including a wide range of length and time scales, highly heterogeneous media, a need for dynamically adaptive resolution and assimilating sparse observational data into the simulations,” Ghattas said. “All of these significantly stress the hardware system. Lonestar 4’s much greater memory bandwidth, faster CPU clock speed, and faster interconnect relative to other TeraGrid systems combine to promise substantially faster turn-around time for our simulations.”

A closeup of the Lonestar 4, which is powered by 1,888 Dell M610 PowerEdge blade servers.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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