Liverpool Uni opts for Dell, Red Hat in supercomputer cluster

'Much cheaper than Unix'

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The University of Liverpool today unveiled a new supercomputer cluster which is expected to be one of the World's 100 most powerful systems when it goes live next month.

The cluster comprises 940 Intel Pentium 4-powered, Dell PowerEdge 650 HPCCs, and will be used for mapping global virus outbreaks, such as SARS, as well as research into physics and nuclear sciences. The entrepreneurial business centre at the University which assists start-up companies in Merseyside will also get some compute time.

The University's Department of Physics will use powerful system (dubbed ULGRID) to simulate the collision of particles to help determine the origins of the universe. In addition, ULGRID and the Advanced Institute for Methods and Emergent Systems (AiMeS) will harness the power of the cluster to assist in research with the World Health Organisation in simulating the spread of disease epidemics, such as SARS.

It's also hoped the system will support a planned research grid with the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.

Professor Themis Bowcock of the Department of Physics, University of Liverpool, said the system gives the University greatly increased processing power at a price far lower than a comparable Unix system would cost. The powerful cluster can be expanded to meet the University's future computing needs, giving some measure of "future-proofing".

Professor Bowcock said: "Our demands were high - we were looking for a cost effective, reliable cluster solution that would fit within a very restricted space and be deployed as quickly as possible."

"In addition we have a limited budget in the Department, so needed a high performance system with low power consumption. Dell's HPCC solution with Intel Pentium 4 processor met all these requirements," he added.

The Dell 940-node supercomputing cluster powered by the 3.06 GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor runs the Red Hat Linux operating system and is connected by 48 PowerConnectTM 5224 network switches, providing high-performance switching capabilities. Fully operational in July 2003, the system will initially co-exist with the University's current array of 300 PCs and servers. The plan is, in due course, to link in with a wider university science network.

In a further research project, the University of Liverpool is hosting part of a separate Dell cluster, purchased by a consortium of four universities including Oxford, Glasgow and UCL (University College London).

This system provides computing power and data storage for the study conducted by the consortium analysing particle accelerator data generated and collected by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in the US. ®

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