High-Performance Computing | News
Carnegie Mellon Builds New Computing Cluster for Education and Research
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is
building a new computing cluster, named Narwhal, which will be used for
education and research related to large-scale computer systems.
The Narwhal cluster will include 448 blade computers, 1,792 processor cores
and more than 400 magnetic disks. Narwhal's blade computers were salvaged from
Cerrillos, a former Los Alamos National
Laboratory (LANL) supercomputer that was decommissioned last year. Cerrillos
contained a whopping 14,400 processor cores, but even Narwhal's fraction of
Cerrillos's core capabilities "is more capable than most educational computing
resources," said Garth Gibson, professor of computer science and principal
investigator for Narwhal, in a prepared statement.
Cerrillos was related to the Roadrunner supercomputer — the first computer
to break the petaflop barrier by performing more than one million billion
calculations per second. Cerrillos and Roadrunner shared a hybrid architecture
that used both AMD Opteron processors and special graphics processors from IBM,
called Cells, to increase overall processing speed. However, Narwhal does not
use Cerrillos's Cell processors "because the academic parallel and distributed
computing goals for Narwhal were better met with more blades and fewer Cell
co-processors," according to the CMU.
Researchers and students at CMU will use the Narwhal cluster "to experiment
with parallel computing applications and infrastructure, controlling and
instrumenting all software down to the bare metal, at a scale that's an order of
magnitude larger than most university clusters," according to the university.
"With Narwhal, we open a new front — assistance with large-scale computer
systems software education," said Gibson in a prepared statement.
The Narwhal cluster is named after the Arctic whale known for the long tusk
protruding from its head. The name was chosen in honor of the
Parallel Reconfigurable Observational
Environment's (PRObE) tradition of selecting names with Alaskan themes.
Garth Gibson, principal investigator for Narwhal, was part of the team that
CMU's Parallel Data Lab will set up the
Narwhal cluster this summer in the
Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC) on the CMU campus.
Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.