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HPC centre lets scientists try-before-they-buy

Scientists wanting to understand more about HPC, or rent out processing power, can test their simulation ideas at the IBM PSSC Customer Centre, without having to purchase hefty amounts of kit first.

The data centre facility, based in Montpellier, France, lets users test and benchmark their high-performance applications over mixed hardware and software environments.

Francois Thomas, who works for IBM at the Montpellier site, said: ‘There are many different applications in HPC, whether you are interested in stars or nanotechnology, people are using HPC [and] there are different competitors in the same environment, which means we have to have a little bit of each piece of hardware.’

The centre – a joint offering with Cisco, IBM and Intel - can be used in a variety of ways and by a variety of users. For example, scientists can use the facility to optimise their code when dealing with application migration from one system to another. This can also make things more cost effective as by optimising their code, this can cut down on the amount of hardware a user needs to buy or cut out the need to buy new hardware altogether.

Dave Jursik, vice president of deep computing sales at IBM, told ‘Some scientists are dealing with large problems and very large equations, so need large amounts of kit. But there are researchers with smaller problems and smaller funding budgets that may want to use this facility to check that everything is optimised.’

The centre also hopes to help scientists that are used to experimenting with real-life kit but not so used to simulating their experiments before moving them into the real world, with simulations offering a way to bring down costs as they are more cost effective than building the kit. The centre also offers users hands-on classes to get newer users up to speed with HPC offerings.

The HPC hardware includes 32 blades, plus 14 HS21XM blades, featuring 256 cores, plus 112 cores of Intel’s Harpertown, 0.5TB of RAM, 1.1TB of disk and 4XDDR Infiniband cards. The kit is also interconnected by Cicso SFS7012D Infiniband 4XDDR switch, has a x3850 M2 (X4 based) four socket SMP system with Intel Tigerton quad-core processors and two x3450 1U systems with 1,600MHz FSB (Stoakley based).

IBM also recently launched its x3450 server, which it claims is an ideal building block for departmental HPC clusters.

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