New age of high computing tech for Melbourne Uni

University of Melbourne

Friday, 01 July, 2016

New age of high computing tech for Melbourne Uni

The University of Melbourne has launched a new HPC service called Spartan, which combines traditional HPC with a flexible cloud computing component. According to the university, no other tertiary institution has put a system like this into production.

“Many research projects demand high-speed interconnect. Spartan can quickly scale into cloud-based virtual machines as needed, and expand the HPC system as user needs evolve,” said Bernard Meade, Head of Research Computer Services at the University of Melbourne.

“Traditional HPC systems are typically tailored for a few specific use cases, but in practice are used for a much wider variety of applications, resulting in less than optimal usage.”

Cloud systems allow for the sharing of computer resources without the need to be prescriptive as to how they are used. They also allow for the rapid deployment and reclaiming of resources for the shared pool.

Spartan is designed to take advantage of the best of both these worlds.

“High-level computing has become an integral part of much of the research activity undertaken at the university.  Spartan will help us provide a world-class research environment,” said Professor Margaret Sheil, Acting Vice-Chancellor at the University of Melbourne.

Spartan can grow and evolve according to the demands of researchers, expanding physically or virtually as required. The design features a nucleus of high-performance, tightly coupled machines, augmented by thousands of compute cores in the Melbourne Node of the Research Cloud.

Such flexibility offers researchers greater options. They will be able to run jobs on bare metal with high-speed interconnections, use a cluster of virtual machines or use a combination of the two. The system also caters for the diverse workloads of modern research, rather than forcing them all together in a suboptimal environment.

Spartan uses the open-source Linux operating system and SLURM as a workload manager. Physical hardware includes Intel systems sourced from Dell and switches from Mellanox and Cisco.

The university said the combination of the architecture, hardware and software choices has already generated impressive results with the fastest latency tests down to 1.15 µs.

“Spartan is a hybrid HPC service, designed to suit a wide range of problem domains. We believe this is the future of HPC,” added Meade.

Image courtesy of Caleb Wagoner under CC-BY-2.0

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