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New HPC cluster system opens at TU Ilmenau

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A newly-enhanced HPC infrastructure at The Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany, will help students achieve seven times faster processing power, while cutting energy costs by up to 20 per cent.

The university wanted to replace its existing HPC systems with a solution that would improve both performance and data access speeds. This required the expansion of its existing 55 server cluster to support the more complex processing tasks and local storage requirements of its 150-200 active users.

‘We’re committed to academic leadership, and strive to offer researchers and students the best possible environment and support,’ said Hennig Schwanbeck, IT manager of Datacentre Administration at the Technical University of Ilmenau. ‘IT plays an essential role in helping us achieve this, but the university’s existing architecture could no longer handle the growing data volumes and high-powered applications, such as those used for complex simulation.’

As a public-sector institute, TU Ilmenau was required to assess solutions from multiple vendors. As the result of the European tendering procedure, collaboration between Dell and HPC specialist ClusterVision began. TU Ilmenau worked with the ClusterVision technical team to design an HPC cluster based on Dell PowerEdge servers.

The resulting HPC cluster consists of 49 Dell PowerEdge R815 servers with AMD Opteron 6134 and 6136 Octa Core processors, running a Fraunhofer File System. One PowerEdge R715 server with AMD Opteron 6128 processors operates as the storage head node, and four further PowerEdge R510 servers with Intel Xeon 5506 processors deliver the cluster’s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) storage. The University has a single Dell PowerEdge R510 server as the metadata storage and a Dell PowerVault MD1200 modular disk storage array for 196 terabytes of gross storage capacity, and a net capacity of 150 terabytes. An InfiniBand network delivers high bandwidth and low latency for fast server-to-server interconnects.

Dell PowerEdge servers include Energy Smart technologies for greater green efficiency. Features such as voltage regulators and greater venting and airflow help the university to maximise performance per Watt, while smart management features such as power capping and scheduling allow TU Ilmenau to better manage its energy use. PowerEdge servers also come with a collection of sensors that automatically track thermal activity, helping to regulate temperatures and lower energy consumption.

Explaining that HPC system demands are significantly higher than with other IT environments, Schwanbeck added: ‘Classical servers normally work at 30 per cent capacity at most. In HPC, we need a maximal usage of CPU and memory – so in the last year our overall cluster usage was about 95 per cent. With our new HPC Cluster, we have greater storage capacity and can achieve a higher workload per server, so we’re maximising the effectiveness of our infrastructure.’