New NSF MRI (HPC) Equipment Is Here!

Soon, Iowa State University will be participating in research that will have very large worldwide implications, from solving human genome problems to setting climate policy. New High Performance Computing (HPC) equipment recently arrived on campus and is being readied for use by a number of very excited groups.

Arun Somani, Associate Dean for Research of the College of Engineering, was the principal investigator for the grant that funded the new HPC cluster. "We're excited," he said. "It's the largest machine on campus. It allows us to do much bigger science, and will benefit faculty in many departments."

The Colleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Agriculture and Life Sciences will be the heaviest users of the HPC equipment, Somani said. The partnership between the three colleges, with support from the office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, was instrumental in bringing equipment of this caliber to the university, he said.

When looking at the new equipment, Somani said, you might not notice any difference in the way it looks. "All you see is a set of black cabinets and lots of blinking lights."

Arun Somani and New HPC Equipment

Jim Coyle, senior system analyst, runs the new HPC lab as part of the technology suite in the lower level of Durham Center. Each node in the HPC system includes 128 gigabytes of memory and there are almost 300 of them, Coyle notes. "You can't run tasks requiring this kind of memory on a desktop." Most laptops hold 8 gigabytes, and most desktops, 16 gigabytes, he said.

Researchers can reserve as much as 1600 processors for as long as three weeks at a time, Coyle said. Over those three weeks, the researcher can solve a problem that would take nearly a century on a single processor.

In addition, the network interface is fiber optic, which will help reduce bottlenecks in performance and keep things speedy, Somani said.

Three dedicated staff members, including Coyle, will maintain the suite of machines including hardware, software, user interface and user accounts.