November 15, 2004
The University of Nottingham announced the selection of Sun Microsystems and Streamline Computing to build a multi-million pound 500-plus node central compute Grid which will provide the university with three teraflops of peak computational performance. The new Grid built using AMD Opteron processor- based Sun Fire V20z servers, will rank as the second largest academic computer system in Europe to date, and the eighth largest worldwide. Application development and deployment tools from Allinea Software, the new spin-out of Streamline, will complement established tools such as Sun Grid Engine to provide the University of Nottingham with a complete and fully-integrated hardware and software solution.
The new Grid can allow university academic staff to complete a year's work in just a single day, significantly speeding up the time it takes to complete research and roll out new innovations. The Grid offers the equivalent of several thousand standard desktop PCs and will help allow academics with large amounts of scientific data to process hundreds of analysis jobs simultaneously, vastly increasing the speed and efficiency of their research work. For example, the Grid will allow the university's School of Chemistry to study molecules and systems that were previously too complicated to contemplate, with some calculations being performed 100 times faster than currently possible.
Frazer Pearce in the University of Nottingham's School of Physics and Astronomy, who is leading the Grid project and who will himself be using the supercomputer to model the evolution of the universe, commented, "The real universe took several billion years to evolve. This new machine is so powerful we can replay that in a few hours. The computer revolution has well and truly arrived and the aim is to ensure that these facilities are available to non-traditional users of advanced computer technology as well as to those working in science and engineering."
"It's thrilling for Sun to be able to help academic organizations undertake this kind of research," said John Fowler, executive vice president at Sun Microsystems. "Typically, we focus on how Sun's Grid technology helps organizations reduce IT costs and capital expenditures, improve asset utilization, and gain more computing agility. That's all still true for the University of Nottingham, but enabling researchers to reproduce the evolution of the universe is a particularly gratifying use of Grid computing. We're very happy to be helping the university increase its depth, breadth and quantity of groundbreaking scientific research using the new Grid's compute power."
Funded as part of a successful bid to the U.K. Government's Science and Research Investment Fund (SRIF), this central Grid facility will complement existing Sun powered departmental Grids, offering the capability for multiple research departments. Over 20 schools within the university are already signed up to use the Grid, including the Schools of Humanities, Geography, Sociology and Social Policy, Psychology, Civil Engineering, Nursing and Medical and Surgical Sciences. Agriculture and Food Science researchers based at the university's Sutton Bonington campus will also have access. Members of the university staff will have access to the Grid directly from their desktop, through "clone" systems in each school.
The University of Nottingham has a number of commercial relationships with companies including Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Boots. These organizations are already taking advantage of the University's current Grid resources. The introduction of this larger Grid allows for further development of these and other commercial relationships, and helps open up an alternative source of funding for the University.
"We are delighted to continue our relationship with the University of Nottingham, where we have had a significant presence for several years," said Michael Rudgyard, founder of Streamline Computing Ltd and the new managing director of Allinea Software. "Sun and Streamline have worked together on a number of very large Grid projects in both academic and commercial sectors. The alliance has an established track record for delivering reliable and cost-effective systems, with outstanding on-going support. With the formation of Allinea Software, which will exploit and evolve the technologies that Streamline has been developing over recent years, we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate how the three companies can provide an end-to-end solution to the University."
The new Grid comprises more than 500 2.2 Ghz Sun Fire V20z systems based on the AMD Opteron processor Model 250 (2.4 GHz) in the central cluster, 3com Gigabit switched architecture, Sun Grid Engine Enterprise Edition for advanced remote scheduling of compute processes, Streamline's Cluster Management & Administration (CMA) tool, Allinea's Distributed Debugging Tool (DDT) and Optimization and Profiling Tool (OPT) as well as the Score cluster system that offers low latency, high bandwidth MPI performance over Gigabit Ethernet.
The University of Nottingham has recently applied to become an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre of Learning. EPSRC is the UK Government's leading funding agency for research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, aimed at establishing 20 elite scholarships per annum to specialize in High Performance Computing (HPC) development. It is hoped that the new Grid implementation will enhance the University's application.
Since its inception in 1982, a singular vision - "The Network Is The Computer" - has propelled Sun Microsystems Inc to its position as a provider of industrial-strength hardware, software and services that make the Net work. Sun can be found in more than 100 countries and on the World Wide Web at sun.com/.
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