Feeds

Swiss boffins slap together homegrown zBox4 supercomputer

Overnighter yields 54 teraflops with flashy storage

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Students and a few wandering professors at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Zurich had a perfect weekend when they scraped together the funds to buy the parts for their zBox4 homegrown supercomputer and assembled the two-rack beast.

This is the fourth generation of homegrown machines that the ITP students have put together, and it represents a serious upgrade over the zBox3 system it replaces, including a new "platter" design where the motherboards and storage are mounted as well as new custom shelving that looks a tad bit like baker's shelves such as those made famous by Google in its early data centers.

Like many supercomputer upgrades, the zBox4 upgrade was stalled a bit by the later-than-expected delivery by Intel of the Xeon E5 processors, which were expected in late 2011 but which came out in the spring of 2012. The specs of the machine are detailed here, and by El Reg's calculations, the 192-node machine with 3,072 cores should deliver around 54 teraflops, considerably more than the 576-core zBox3 machine based on Core2 processors and with only 1.3TB of aggregate main memory.

The interesting bit about the zBox4 machine is what the boffins opted for in terms of hardware components. To start with, the system has 192 of Super Micro's X9DRT-IBQF motherboards, which have on-board QDR InfiniBand ports.

They chose the eight-core E5-2660 processor to slap into these boards, which is the fastest 95 watt part that Intel sells with all eight cores fired up and which delivers 140.8 gigaflops of peak gigaflops at double precision. Each node was configured with 64GB of main memory, for the expected 4GB per core that is the average out there in HPC Land.

Each node also has a 128GB Vertex 4 flash-based SSD, which is the skinniest of the OCZ units in the Vertex 4 family (and therefore the least expensive). That yields 12.3TB of main memory and 24.6TB of flash storage across the cluster.

The nodes are lashed together with QLogic QDR InfiniBand switches from Intel in a 2:1 fat tree configuration with three core switches and nine leaf switches. There are Gigabit Ethernet switches that link to ports on the nodes for management.

All of the nodes run Scientific Linux 6.3, the clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.3 with math libraries and other tunings for HPC workloads. The Swiss boffins are using Slurm as their queuing system.

The whole shebang will burn around 44 kilowatts under full load, and costs under $750,000, or about $13,888 per teraflops. The entire machine was built in under 24 hours.

The zBox4 system will link into an existing homegrown Lustre file system with 684TB of capacity that has support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet or QDR InfiniBand links into the storage and that takes up 48 racks of space with its 342 1.5TB disks and 171 2TB disks. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Bitcasa bins $10-a-month Infinite storage offer
Firm cites 'low demand' plus 'abusers'
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC
Support for PCoIP protocol means zero clients can run cloudy desktops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.