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Paderborn University commission Cray to deliver FPGA accelerated supercomputer

Paderborn University has announced that it has selected a Cray CS500 cluster system as its next-generation supercomputer. This procurement is the first phase of the universities Noctua project in which a multi-petaflop-system will be deployed at the university - costing around 10 Million euros.

The initial high-performance computing (HPC) system provides academic researchers from Paderborn University and nationwide with computing resources primarily for computational material science, optoelectronics and photonics, and computer system research. The system is expected to go into production in 2018.

Translating the continuous innovation in HPC technologies into meaningful benefits for researchers requires a close collaboration of technology providers, method and code developers, and users. ‘Cray has a reputation both as a technology pioneer and for pushing the boundaries of supercomputing unlike any other IT company,’ said Professor Christian Plessl, director and head of the board of Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing (PC²). ‘Cray is an ideal partner for delivering the computing power required by our users and for collaborating with PC² in forward-looking HPC systems research.’

The cluster will use 32 FPGA accelerators featuring the latest generation Intel Stratix 10 FPGAs. The selected FPGAs, with 5,760 variable-precision DSP blocks each, are well suited to floating-point scientific computation. They reached general availability just in time to be installed in the Noctua cluster.

A first set of applications that benefit from FPGA acceleration is currently ported and was reengineered in close cooperation with computational scientists. This infrastructure will be used to study the potential of FPGAs for energy-efficient scientific computing, allowing PC² to maintain its leading role in establishing this technology in HPC. ‘Cray is dedicated to supporting academic researchers around the world in achieving their initiatives and we are pleased that Cray’s system provides the flexibility in supporting state-of-the-art FPGAs for scientific computing,’ said Pascal Barbolosi, vice president of EMEA sales at Cray. ‘This latest commission will allow Cray to support Paderborn University researchers with this exciting phase of their computer system research.’

The Cray CS500 system will be installed at the Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing. It is expected that the new system will deliver triple the performance of the previous flagship system, OCuLUS. The new supercomputer will be deployed with 272 dual-socket compute nodes powered by Intel's latest generation Xeon Skylake processors. The used 20-core CPUs are the highest-performing of Intel’s Xeon Gold portfolio. Overall, the system will provide a total of 11,000 cores and 51 TB RAM. The system is connected by a 100 Gbps Intel OmniPath interconnect supporting highly parallel MPI applications.

Additionally, a Cray ClusterStor L300N storage appliance will be installed. The combination of Lustre, GridRAID and the NXD flash accelerator technology will offer 720 TB of highly reliable storage for I/O-intensive compute jobs. ‘With the updated HPC system our users will again have the latest HPC technology with the most powerful computing nodes available,’ said Dr Jens Simon, manager of HPC systems and services at the Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing.

When signing the purchase agreement, operations vice president Dr Simone Probst emphasised the importance of the supercomputer for the strategy of Paderborn University. ‘It is essential that we enable our researchers to perform world-class research by providing them with powerful computing resources. The university as a whole also profits from this infrastructure in the competition to attract the best talent.’


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