Buffalo Cluster's a Grid Cornerstone

SUNY Buffalo's new cluster of Dell servers is the cornerstone of a New York state grid project

July 16, 2005

3 Min Read
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The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo has installed a major cluster of Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) servers, which will form the cornerstone of an extensive research grid covering all of New York State (see University at Buffalo Adds Dell Cluster).

Researchers in Buffalo have added a total of 834 Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) Pentium processor-based Dell servers to the Universitys Center for Computational Research (CCR). This brings the Center’s total processor capacity to 7,000, encompassing a mixture of hardware from the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) and Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) (NYSE: SGI).

Russ Miller, the Center’s director, expects the new cluster to have a peak performance of more than 10 Teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second. This would place the cluster at 40th place, just behind the 10.2 Teraflop U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) cluster, based on the most recent list of the world’s top supercomputers (see Top Supercomputers Revealed and Invasion of the Coneheads). By adding the new Dell servers, Buffalo has also boosted the overall peak performance of its research center from around 12 to 22 Teraflops.

In addition to the Dell servers, the new cluster also contains 30 Terabytes of storage from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and uses a combination of Gigabit Ethernet and Myrinet for its network infrastructure.

The University currently runs around 140 different research projects at its Center for Computational Research. These include research into computational chemistry, life-sciences, engineering, and scientific visualization. Although the Dell cluster was only delivered in April, Buffalo has already used the servers to animate eight videos for MTV, he says.The Buffalo cluster is also earmarked for something even bigger. It will form a key part of a statewide effort to harness compute power across a range of different institutions. The University, in conjunction with SUNY Geneseo, Niagara University, Canisius College, and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute has already developed a grid in western New York state, he says.

However, Buffalo is working with a number of institutions in other parts of the Empire state to expand this effort, including Columbia University, SUNY Binghamton, and SUNY Albany. Miller believes the new cluster will help entice even more organizations into the project. “It’s more powerful than anything else that’s sitting on the grid right now,” he says. “It will be a great attraction.”

Miller promises the grid will be open to a broad range of users. “I expect that over the next two to three years we will be adding non-profit institutions such as colleges, universities, and research institutions at a fairly rapid rate,” he says. This could also include high schools, he adds.

Like the grid in the western part of the state, the broader New York effort is accessed via the Internet, according to Miller. Users can then tap into the grid’s resources via a number of programs and applications, he adds.

Miller believes the statewide grid will prove particularly popular for research in biomedicine, engineering, and social sciences. But he is unable to predict its ultimate size. “It will never be complete,” he says. “As with any grid it will always be in an evolving state.”There are already a number of collaborative grid projects underway elsewhere in the world, as different organizations attempt to harness their collective IT resources. One high-profile example of this is Holland’s SURFnet network, a grid connecting research organizations and teaching hospitals (see Telecom Firms Grappling With the Grid, EC Boosts Grid Computing, and Texas Tech Goes for Grid).

SUNY Buffalo has been earning something of a reputation as a supercomputing trailblazer recently. Last year the school’s Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics used a cluster of IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) blade servers to build a 1.32-Teraflop supercomputer (see Blades for Buffalo ).

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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