"This gift from Total will extend our existing computing resources", stated Jaspal Subhlok, chairman of UH's department of computer science. "Having more compute resources will not only allow us to do larger simulations and larger analyses, but also allow multiple simulations to run simultaneously."
Industry and research centres use computer clusters of this size to solve problems that are too large for an individual PC or would take too long to be solved on a single PC.
"Total is proud to award this donation to the University of Houston, a center of higher learning whose research programmes are an integral part of our community and economy here in Houston", stated Wafik Beydoun, CEO and president of TOTAL E&P Research & Technology USA. "We have strong, long-standing research alliances with the university and are currently partnering on leading-edge geophysical, engineering and high-performance computing topics."
"The cluster performs 4.5 trillion compute operations per second", stated Edgar Gabriel, associate professor of computer science and coordinator of UH's bid for the Total donation. "To put that in perspective, think of one compute operation as one addition or multiplication operation. This cluster can perform 4,500 billion add or multiply operations in a single second."
Edgar Gabriel said the cluster will impact faculty and doctoral research projects and will be used by students in various course activities. Researchers in computer science, physics, and chemical and biomolecular engineering already have expressed an interest in using the cluster.
"The computer science department also will be doing systems-level research", Edgar Gabriel stated. "We have several projects planned that are addressing improved ways for industry and research to optimize use of these types of resources."
Several UH research projects plan to make use of the cluster's speed and large data analysis capabilities. The research topics include efforts to create simpler and more effective programming models for large computers, the simulation of molecular structures, studies of thermodynamics at the molecular level, and studies of pedestrian and traffic patterns that require the simultaneous analysis of enormous amounts of surveillance video data.
Students also will benefit from access to the computer cluster, gaining valuable experience that will be beneficial in the job market.
"A number of courses require computer science students to learn how to run large projects on this type of cluster", Edgar Gabriel stated. "We also expose the students to the management side of these resources - setting up a cluster, networking it and understanding the systems administration of it."
Total selected UH to receive the cluster donation from a group of several companies and institutions in the U.S. Criteria for awarding the donation included the ability to strengthen and sustain a research alliance/collaboration; a background history of collaboration between Total and the potential recipient; the potential recipient's interest and needs for the cluster; and readiness of the recipient to integrate the cluster within its IT data centre facility.
"After thorough evaluation and discussion with the potential recipients, we decided to make the award to UH, which scored high in all categories under consideration", Wafik Beydoun stated.
The computer science department plans to begin using the cluster this month. The Texas Learning and Computation Center and the UH Information Technology High Performance Computing Group will jointly administer the cluster.