"The new CÉCI cluster to be installed at the ULB had to feature a very high number of cores interconnected with an InfiniBand network and with a well-balanced storage system to allow fast IO response to the CPU load while enabling high capacity expansions. ClusterVision proposed a unique combination of hardware and software components matching exactly our needs. The quality of the cluster assembly and configuration reflects ClusterVision engineers and technicians experience in HPC. This new cluster installation will enable researchers requiring HPC solutions, such as earth-level simulations, bioinformatics and other Big Data related analysis, to move towards more ambitious projects and/or be more competitive at the international level", stated Raphael Leplae PhD., ULB, Computing Centre, Operations/HPC manager.
The Université Libre de Bruxelles is the French speaking Free University of Brussels. Spread over 4 main campuses, the Université Libre de Bruxelles is a major international centre for teaching and research, with interests in fields such as science and technology, life sciences, health care, humanities and social sciences. It is home to 24,000 domestic and foreign students, teaching 40 graduate and 235 post-graduate programmes.
The University also plays a major role in the economic, social and cultural development of the region. It is an active and influential partner in a number of regional, European and international co-operation programmes, with a diverse range of academic and commercial business interests. These collaborations include the regional academic partnership CÉCI (Consortium des Équipements de Calcul Intensif), the research funding collaboration FRS-FNRS (Le Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique), and UNICA, the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe.
CÉCI was formed in 2010 as a collaborative agreement between the five French speaking universities of the region with the objective to add depth and diversity by sharing HPC facilities and resources within their respective research communities. Through this collaboration CÉCI aims to provide every researcher in the region with a substantial scale and diverse range of computational facilities, together with a high level of HPC training and guidance. The partners in the CÉCI collaboration currently include the Université Libre de Bruxelles/Computing Centre, the Université Catholique de Louvain/CISM, the Université de Liège/SEGI, the Université de Namur/ISCF, and the Université de Mons/LPSI, CMN and INFO.
CÉCI partners, including the Université Libre de Bruxelles, are financially supported by FRS-FNRS, the Fund for Scientific Research. FNRS contributes to the development of basic research in the Wallonia-Brussels region through the promotion and support of the development of the scientific initiatives presented by its research community. It also helps to develop the interests and influence of researchers from the region in a larger European research community. FNRS provides direct scholarship funding for individuals and research teams and grants to promote scientific exchange, and is the financial collaborator of the new HPC cluster installation project at Université Libre de Bruxelles.
The Université Libre de Bruxelles is also a founder of UNICA, the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe. UNICA comprises 44 universities in 33 European capitals, including many of ClusterVision's customers, and is an umbrella organisation for the international policy, internationalisation and development and interests of over 1.8 million European students. Its aim is to promote academic excellence and cooperation between member universities, supporting them at national, regional and international levels.
We were extremely pleased to have the opportunity to further extend our provision of HPC systems and service infrastructure for the Wallonia-Brussels region. The newly installed cluster capabilities at the Université Libre de Bruxelles will add valuable HPC resources both to its own community and, through its collaborations, to a wide range of academic and commercial partners. We are committed to the objectives of the Université Libre de Bruxelles and their various collaborations and we look forward to continuing our success with other partners in the region", stated Aldert Groenenberg, BeNeLux Country Manager at ClusterVision.
The public tender for the new ULB HPC cluster installation project was issued in February 2012, with the successful award to ClusterVision being announced in early May 2012. Key requirements for the project were a high density but power efficient configuration of compute cores, high levels of benchmark performance on SPECfp (Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation floating point) and IOzone storage file operations, and a comprehensive, easy to use cluster management system.
ClusterVision worked with system engineers at ULB to design and install a combination of HPC technologies from partners including Dell, Supermicro, AMD, NVIDIA, Qlogic, GPFS and Bright Computing.
The compute density and performance characteristics are achieved through the addition of 42 Dell PowerEdge M915 Blade Servers, each with 4 AMD Opteron 6272 CPUs and 256GB of RAM. Selecting the AMD Opteron 6200 series "Interlagos" 16-core processors allowed engineers at ClusterVision to achieve the scaled performance but keeping within the requirements for density and energy efficiency. Additional compute power is provided by 2 NVIDIA Tesla M2090 GPUs, housed in a Supermicro chassis, also with AMD Opteron 6200 processors.
The system incorporates both high and mid-range storage expansion based on Dell PowerVault. High-range storage is expanded by Dell PowerVault MD3220 with 24x 900GB SAS 10K RPM. The mid-range storage expansion of 40TB is achieved via 1 Dell PowerVault MD3200 and 2 Dell PowerVault MD1200 units. Network connectivity is primarily provided by Qlogic Infinipath QLE7340 and Qlogic QLA12200 switches.
To complete the system ClusterVision included a full software environment, including IBM's high performance shared file system, GPFS (General Parallel File System) - an innovative solution for non-IBM storage, and Advanced Edition licences of Bright Cluster Manager from Bright Computing. Bright Cluster Manager was used for the installed Linux environment, initial provisioning and configuration of the cluster components and is also the base platform for the day to day operational management of the system.
In addition to on-site installation, configuration and burn-in testing, ClusterVision will provide on-going first point of contact services for warranty, maintenance and support for all of the key hardware and software components. The cluster project was completed with successful acceptance and handover in January 2013 and is now fully operational.
"One of our key strengths as an independent company is our ability to integrate HPC technologies from a wide range of manufacturers and providers. The architecture and performance requirements set out by the Université Libre de Bruxelles in their tender specification gave us the freedom to explore an innovative combination of technologies, both in the hardware and software solutions provided. Bringing such technologies together requires skill and experience, and my congratulations go to our design and engineering teams and all involved at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in bringing this project to a successful conclusion", stated Christopher Huggins, Commercial Director at ClusterVision.
"Continuing a long HPC tradition, the Computing Centre at the Université Libre de Bruxelles acknowledges the FNRS-FRS funding and the CÉCI initiative to expand its offering for computational scientists. Already this first grant allows for a significant increase in compute performance within the French community of Belgium. We also appreciate the interest taken by ClusterVision in our project as their proposal won the call for tender with flying colours", stated Dr. Paul Raeymaekers, ICT Director, Université Libre de Bruxelles.