OIT to provide high-performance computing cluster

The Office of Information Technology has announced plans to build a high-performance computer system that will be available this spring to members of all departments for teaching and research.

The computer system, a type known as a Beowulf cluster, will consist of 32 off-the-shelf personal computers connected with a high-speed network. This setup offers many benefits of custom-designed scientific supercomputers at a fraction of the cost, said Curt Hillegas, OIT's manager of research and academic applications support. OIT is building the system in partnership with the Dell Computer Corp., which is providing and installing the computers at a reduced cost.

The computer system could help scientists simulate anything from the early history of the universe to complex chemical reactions to demographic trends.

The initiative grew out of recommendations of the Research Computing Advisory Group, a committee of faculty members, OIT personnel and departmental computer support staff, said Hillegas. "We are trying to respond with services that the faculty said would really support their research."

The new computer system is expected to serve three main purposes:

  • To provide an easily accessible resource to the increasing number of researchers who require high-performance computing, but who do not use it enough to justify buying their own machines;
  • To facilitate better graduate and undergraduate training in computational techniques and theory; and
  • To provide a testing ground for OIT and academic departments to experiment with ideas for other computer systems before committing major resources.

"This initiative represents one step in our ongoing effort to listen to the needs of faculty members, students and administrators and respond with services that benefit as many areas of teaching and research as possible," said Betty Leydon, vice president for information technology. "We are grateful for the strong support from faculty members in developing the Beowulf cluster and look forward to working with many more people in putting it to use."

The OIT Beowulf cluster will be powered by 32 Dell PCs, each containing two 2.4-gigahertz Intel processors. The computers will run the RedHat Linux operating system. The University recently received a shipment of the PCs and expects the cluster, which will be located in the OIT building at 87 Prospect St., to be built and running this spring. Researchers who want to use the system should contact Hillegas at 609-258-6033.

See the full news release and the project's Web site for more information.

Contact: Lauren Robinson-Brown (609) 258-3601