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Switch Tahoe Reno 1 data center outside of Reno, Nevada Switch
Switch Tahoe Reno 1 data center outside of Reno, Nevada

Switch Donates $3.4M in Data Center Services for Reno's New Supercomputer

The University of Nevada, Reno, is on its way to having a new supercomputer. Called Pronghorn — after the American antelope, the fastest mammal in North American — the new $1.3 million, 310 TFLOPS high-performance cluster is part of the University’s initiative to reach R1 Carnegie Research Classification. When completed, it will provide 30 times more computing power than the university’s existing HPC system.

“High-performance computing is critical for modern research and scientific discovery,” the university’s president, Marc Johnson, said in a statement. “The impact of this will be multi-dimensional; it will allow for faster analysis and exchange of large scientific datasets. It will contribute to deeper discovery across a range of research disciplines university-wide and to development of industry partnerships.”

Proghorn will be housed in the new Tahoe Reno 1 facility by the Las Vegas-based data center provider Switch. The data center, whose anchor tenant is eBay, opened in February. Switch has pledged to be a benevolent landlord, by donating $3.4 million in critical infrastructure support, including space, power and security, for the next five years.

“Making Nevada the most connected state and driving economic development through technology and data analytics are critical priorities that Switch shares with the University of Nevada, Reno,” explained Adam Kramer, Switch’s executive vice president for strategy. “This collaborative project will cement the university’s commitment to strengthen its status as a top-level research university and its ability to partner with the private sector.”

According the the university’s Office of Information Technology, the system will be built by Dell EMC and DDN Storage.

“The idea is to build an infrastructure with enough capacity so we have what we need with additional ‘head room’ for future development,” the university’s vice provost and chief information officer, Steve Smith, said.

According to specs published by the university, Pronghorn will consist of 64 CPU nodes, with each node utilizing 32 E5-2683 v4, 2.1GHz Intel Xeon processors. Counting the processors used by 32 GPU nodes, the system will employ a total of 2,400 processors with 19TB memory. Storage will utilize DDN GridScaler appliances implementing the IBM General Parallel File System with 1 PB capacity.

“Some big data projects require large-scale memory while others require high-speed networks,” Jeff LaCombe, the chair of the university’s faculty-based Cyberinfrastructure Committee, said. “We are looking to balance both.”

Initial hardware installation is expected to be completed in September 2017, with availability for faculty and investors scheduled for November. The system should be fully operational in January 2018. It will be used for research that will include artificial intelligence, robotics, and computational biology.

The project is being funded by the State of Nevada Knowledge Fund (facilitated by the Governor’s Office for Economic Development); a donation from a university supporter and noted researcher, Mick Hitchcock; the university’s Research & Innovation division; its Office of Information Technology and faculty investors.

Industry access to Pronghorn will be coordinated through the Nevada Center for Applied Research, a research and technology center that makes the school’s facilities, equipment and talent available to industry through customized, fee-based contracts. Industry partners must have a tangible connection to the university, such as a research collaboration.

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