Indiana University and Cray Inc. (NASDAQ: Cray) announced today (October 9) that the university plans to replace its largest supercomputer system, Big Red, with the fastest university-owned supercomputer in the nation. Named Big Red II, the next-generation Cray XK supercomputer will be capable of one thousand trillion floating-point operations per second, or one petaFLOPS.
Big Red II will be developed and deployed through a joint effort between Cray and IU to provide an innovative supercomputer that advances research particularly in areas related to big data. The system will combine the longstanding leadership of Cray supercomputers and IU-developed technology for movement, management and analysis of massive data sets. The university plans to install the new system in its state-of-the-art data center in spring 2013.
“IU’s new Cray supercomputer will ensure we stay at the forefront of the use of high-speed and data-intensive computation in some of the most vital and complex research in the world, and the decision to acquire the fastest university-owned supercomputer is the latest evidence of how important the highest speed computation is to our researchers and scientists,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. “It has enabled them to obtain extensive funding for their research that they would not otherwise been able to get and has enabled them to continue to stay at the leading edge of their disciplines.”
“Big Red II will accelerate discovery and allow new research by hundreds of IU scientists and scholars right across the university including in medicine, biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, network science, sustainability science, global climate research, public health, and, of course, informatics and computer science. It will also play a major role in the recruitment of new faculty in these and other areas who will make use of Big Red II and its huge data processing capabilities.”
The new system will be unique among supercomputers owned by U.S. universities. The new Cray will have more than 21,000 processor cores, high-performance GPUs, and an extremely fast Cray Gemini Interconnect. It will include the newest NVIDIA GPU accelerators and the latest AMD processors with 16 cores each. Big Red II represents a substantial capability leap forward for IU over Big Red’s 4,100 cores.
“We are excited and honored that Indiana University has selected a Cray supercomputer to become the next Big Red system,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray Inc. “The university is widely known as a leader in the academic circles of high performance computing, and we look forward to collaborating with IU and providing their researchers, scientists and students with the unique performance and capability found only in a Cray.”
“Big Red II is the next step in executing IU’s strategic IT plans in support of the university,” said Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for information technology and CIO. “Using the original Big Red, IU researchers have secured more than $253 million in grant funding, and we foresee a similar positive impact being made by Big Red II. The key importance of these systems has been in the discoveries they have enabled, represented in thousands of published papers produced by the IU scientists who have used them. Big Red has been an extraordinary value for IU over its almost seven years of service, and the frontiers with Big Red II will be even more expansive.”
Andrew Saykin is one of many IU researchers whose important work will be aided by the new supercomputer.
“Data sets of unprecedented scope can facilitate new discoveries regarding the brain, genome, disease and therapies but computational power has become a major bottleneck to scientific progress,” said Saykin, Raymond C. Beeler Professor of Radiology at the IU School of Medicine and director of the IU Center for Neuroimaging. “To analyze the entire human genome in relation to longitudinal changes on brain MRI and PET scans in over 800 individuals, we need significantly more computing power than is available today. This new supercomputer is an exciting development that will undoubtedly enable new discoveries by many investigators at IU and beyond.”
IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI) leaders already have plans for using Big Red II to develop new techniques and tools, including Beth Plale, PTI managing director and director of IU’s Data to Insight Center; Andrew Lumsdaine (director) and Thomas Sterling (chief scientist and associate director) of IU’s Center for Research in Extreme Scale Technologies; and Geoffrey C. Fox, director of IU’s Digital Science Center.
“Cray’s leading capabilities for petaFLOPS systems, PTI innovations that create new software tools, and IU Research Technologies’ ability to provide university-wide support to all disciplines are a highly unique combination that will accelerate many frontiers of research,” said Craig Stewart, PTI executive director and associate dean of research technologies. “This is a first in my more than three decades of work on research technologies.”
The original Big Red, which was the fastest university-owned system of its kind when it was installed in 2006, is now considered old by supercomputer standards. In fact, when it is retired in early 2013 it will have outlasted the typical operating lifespan for a supercomputer by more than two years.
Through the years, IU has made significant investments in its high performance computing resources, resulting in a number of “firsts.” For example, in 2001, IU’s Research SP was the first university-owned supercomputer capable of 1 teraflops processing capability; in 2003, IU achieved the first distributed Linux cluster achieving more than 1 teraflops on standard benchmark applications; and in 2006 Big Red was the fastest academic supercomputer in the United States.
This partnership with Cray resulted from a thorough competitive bid process. IU and Cray expect to finalize the last details of the contract within the next few weeks, and Big Red II will use IU’s high-speed Lustre file system, based on DDN storage hardware.