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Emory, Georgia Tech team up for new high performance computing cluster

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Holly Korschun

Emory University, together with the Partnership for an Advanced Computing Environment (PACE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is launching a new high performance computing cluster for use by Emory researchers.

With more memory and flexibility and full back up, the computer cluster is designed to meet Emory researchers' demands while consuming less power. The new cluster, named TARDIS, will replace the Ellipse cluster built in 2007. Ellipse will be phased out by May 2014 as work gradually moves to TARDIS.

"Emory and Georgia Tech are leveraging each other's strengths in a collaborative partnership to offer a valuable community resource," says Marc Overcash, Emory's assistant dean for information technology and deputy chief information officer.

"These added capabilities combined with memory allocation and data job flexibility make this a dramatic improvement over our current facilities," says Tom Quinn, Emory University School of Medicine's division director of information technology and project director.

Common applications for high performance computing include: structural biology, brain imaging and other types of magnetic resonance imaging, neural systems modeling, and genomics.

"The performance advantages will be significant, and the power savings are tremendous," says Dieter Jaeger, PhD, professor of biology and chair of the executive committee for high performance computing at Emory. "In addition, the old cluster was reaching the end of its expected life span and service contracts were running out. Having new hardware, all under warranty, bolsters reliability."

"On the new server, we can now process 20 exomes per hour, a 60-fold increase in speed," says Michael Zwick, PhD, associate professor of human genetics and scientific director of the Emory Integrated Genomics Core. "This is a dramatic improvement and will allow members of the Emory community to perform larger experiments faster and for less money. We will be a significant user of the new cluster and our computational services will be taking advantage of this exciting new capability."

The TARDIS cluster will be located at Georgia Tech in the Rich Computer Center, but the physical separation is expected to be negligible because of the 10 gigabit per second connection.

The new cluster is configured as 12 nodes with 768 cores. 8 gigabytes RAM (four times more than previously available) are allocated to a single core. Larger amounts of RAM can be scheduled for a single core if necessary. More storage is available than previously: a total of 40 terabytes of storage space is available for all Emory projects, all fully backed up. Last month, approximately 11 percent of the storage capacity had been utilized.

"We are very excited to begin this next phase of collaborations between Georgia Tech and Emory, and look forward to strengthening this partnership for years to come," says Neil Bright, chief high performance computing architect at Georgia Tech.

TARDIS is also the name of a time machine and spacecraft from the science fiction series Doctor Who, whose notable characteristic is that its interior is larger than its exterior. Accordingly, the new cluster takes up much less space: less than a single cabinet instead of 20. High density Advanced Micro Devices "Abu Dhabi" processors are designed to consume less power and generate less heat.

The new cluster will be dedicated to Emory researchers and can be accessed from any lab on the Emory network or remotely by Emory VPN. A broad list of applications is available.

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